The Beginning of Wisdom

I’ll share a little something about myself with you. I don’t like to be afraid. Fear is one emotion that I seek to avoid as much as possible. Take, for example, horror movies. Not a fan. Never have been. I don’t even understand the genre or the people who support it. I’ve never understood why people would spend their hard-earned money to scare themselves. There are plenty of things to be afraid of in the world, why should I pay to conjure up that emotion? Why would I want to?

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. In fact, I know I’m not because the Bible has so much to say about fear. A quick hit using a Bible search engine shows that there are 299 verses with the word “fear” in them and 163 more with the word “afraid” in them. Combined, that’s more verses than the Bible’s other great topic—love. The Bible talks a lot about fear. In fact, did you know that some fear is actually good? Say it ain’t so! The Bible says repeatedly that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps.111:10; Prov.1:7, 9:10).

This fear is not a terror or dread where we fear that God is out to get us, but one mixed with love and respect. Like the kind of fear you probably had for your earthly father. You knew that he wasn’t to be crossed and you respected him. So it is with God, but to an even greater degree since He is perfectly holy.

So if we truly begin to be wise when we start to fear God, how does that relate to our lives? To our conduct? To our finances? Well, when we realize that all that we have is given to us by God and that He has a requirement that we return some of our time, talents, and treasure to Him to support the work of His Church, we should fear withholding anything from Him. He knows all things so He knows if you’re being stingy.

This happened with the nation of Israel and He called them to the carpet for it. He cursed them and called them robbers (Mal.3:8-9). Think about that. God calling you a robber. Men may accuse us of many things and some of their accusations may stick, but when God accuses you of something, you’re caught. There’s no denying it. So rather than rob God and think we’re getting away with something, we should honor Him with the first of our fruits (Lev.2:12). In fact, He invites us to test Him that if we bring Him the whole tithe, He says He will pour out a blessing until it overflows (Mal.3:10). God is challenging us to try to out-give Him! I dare you to try it. As you will quickly learn, it can’t be done.

Fear and the Taboo

Growing up there were several subjects that were taboo (not acceptable to talk about) in my home and at church.  All I concluded as a kid was that these taboo subjects were “bad.”  No one talked about them, so I was left to my own thought process and what I was taught by the world system.

Deuteronomy 6:7 instructs, “You shall teach them [God’s Word] diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up” (Cf. Deut.11:19).

Ephesians 6:4 teaches us, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Genesis 18:19 tells us, “For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice.”

Psalm 78:4 reads, “We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.”

With just this brief survey of the Scriptures, why do we allow any topic/issue to paralyze us in fear and anxiety? Why don’t we instruct ourselves with what the Bible says about money, finances, wealth, poverty, charity, debt, responsibility, thanksgiving, and provision? Why do we allow “others” to give their anti-biblical, anti-Christ honoring, anti-God fearing viewpoints to us and our children?

At this time, we as Christians need to humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from our wicked ways. Then God will hear from heaven, will forgive our sin, and will heal our land.

Perhaps you are reading this and you are struggling with finances. Perhaps you feel a lack or you’re in the position to be generous to others in need.  May I encourage you to search the Scriptures for several days?  May I encourage you to talk to a few mature Christians who do not stand to profit from any decision you make?  Then I want to encourage you to proceed in faith based upon the correct understanding of God’s Word.  Finally, be ready to teach and explain to your children and others about what you have learned and how you are seeking to honor God.

God’s Will for My Wallet

All of us have questions about the will of God in our lives—whom should I marry, what school should I go to, how should I raise my children, etc.? Hopefully, those questions stem from an earnest desire to please God in every aspect of our lives. Of course, oftentimes, God doesn’t give us direct answers to those questions, but calls us to live out Biblical principles that can apply to every situation—also known  as wisdom. When it comes to our finances, God gives us both direct injunctions as well as general principles that help to guide us in using money according to His will. The first and foremost principle, without which none of the others is genuinely possible, is to simply, and radically, recognize that your money is not your money. It all belongs to God.

The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” (Psalm 24:1)

“Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name. But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You.” (1Ch.29:12-14)

 “What do you have that you did not receive?” (2 Cor.4:7)

In other words, these verses, and many others throughout the Bible, affirm that God created all things, rules over all things, and owns all things. Everything that we have flows out of His abundance. The more we recognize this fact and embrace it, the more we will assess how we use our money. We will see our money as a resource we can use for His kingdom purposes before our own desires.


That money talks, that I’ll not deny, I heard it once: it said, ‘goodbye’”—Richard Armour, American Poet.

Our attitude about handling money is just as, if not more, important as our ability to earn it. Of all the subjects we are taught and forced to digest in our education system (primary school through university), finances is one of the most neglected. Some are experiencing financial difficulties due to poor decisions and recklessness while others have fallen prey to circumstances, e.g. legal woes, medical expenses, loss of employment, or a change in family structure. Providing reasonable and necessary care for family members who are unable to support themselves can add to the strain, but it is your responsibility. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).  No matter which category you find yourself in, bills and surprises come at us steadily. The stress of not having enough funds available to cover expenses can be very emotional. When this happens, it is easy to become distracted and discouraged.

The releasing of debt is a familiar theme throughout Scripture. Being in debt is equated to being in bondage (Proverbs 22:7). In particular, the New Testament illustrates this with parables about financial debt that highlight God’s mercy and forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 7:36-50). Modern bankruptcy laws are derived from debt forgiveness laws contained in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 15:1-2). These provisions were in place to allow the members of society to restructure and regroup. Conversely, the Bible also addresses those who borrow money without any intention of repaying it (Psalms 37:21; Ecclesiastes 5:5). Peering through scriptural lenses allows us to properly view and examine our lifestyles and the condition of our hearts.

No matter where you find yourself on the spectrum—struggling or heading towards filing for bankruptcy—you have to remember that only you are able to take control through a well-devised plan and course of action. Do not succumb to feelings of guilt or shame. Treat it like a serious wound: stop the bleeding and work on healing. Take inventory of your needs vs. your wants. Be willing to give up some non-essentials and/or explore healthy opportunities for earning more income. Relying on your number to come in or trusting in debt consolidation companies will only add further insult to injury. The more you educate yourself about money and handling finances, the better equipped you will be to proceed. Many churches offer the Financial Peace University course, which will assist you with creating and sticking to a personalized budget while strategically attacking and extinguishing debt. Also, there are many books, workbooks, and templates that can be utilized as you seek to be a good and faithful steward of your resources.


Who Owns You?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” With these famous words from the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence, a small band of 13 colonies set in motion an “idea” of Liberty and Independence that many Americans and, really, many people throughout the world today use as their basis of what it means to be free. But as Christians, is this to be our line of thinking about liberty and freedom?

Christians are free from the bondage of sin and the “yoke” of the Law. Therefore, Christian liberty is not about demanding the “rights” that we have; rather it’s about being free to live to serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13) and live a life of selflessness as modeled by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Romans 15:1-3). However, Christian liberty is not about flaunting our freedoms in such a way that infringes on another’s conscience either.

How about our finances? If we are free from the bondage of sin, does that mean we should be free from financial bondage (or debt) as well? Is there a line to be drawn when seeking financial freedom from debt?  Last year about this same time I wrote another blog post titled “Financial Freedom” where I explained how as a young man I had a goal in life to be financially independent, yet little did I know that very goal was actually leading me to bondage.

So, am I saying that pursuing financial freedom automatically leads to bondage? Not necessarily. In this context of financial freedom over financial bondage, there is actually a transfer that needs to happen first. When we realize that the freedom we enjoy in Christ is because of the the “Great Transfer” (2 Corinthians 5:21), we start to understand that ALL belongs to Him (including our finances). Therefore, if we would live with an attitude that our finances belong to God and He is in control of them along with everything else, that should free us from the bondage of stress and worry over lack of finances. When we grasp this attitude, that is true financial freedom.


Summer Fun

“Do you guys have any vacation plans for the summer?” It’s a question we all hear often during this time of year. Somehow summertime brings with it the expectation of family leisure and fun. In a sense, it rightly should be that kind of time—the kids are out of school, so there is a lot more focused time to be spent engaging the family. However, part of the mentality with summer vacation and leisure is that these times need to be big, extravagant, and memorable (read: cost a lot of money).

The world places upon us the expectation for extravagant vacations, and oftentimes we feed into that, regardless of what our bank account would warrant. However, memorable family fun does not need to drive us into debt. In fact, I think most kids would be happy just with time spent fully engaged with their parents. When I asked my daughter what she wanted to do this summer, her answer to me was: go swimming. That’s it. She wants to swim. So, for me to make this summer everything she hopes for, it simply means I need to put down my phone, shut off the computer, and get in the pool with her. Simple.

This does not mean every family should just swim and not travel. Sometimes we have it in our budget to plan a large scale vacation, and that’s ok. It just need not be something we pressure ourselves or our families to achieve every year. When our kids look back on their childhoods, they will for sure remember those grandiose family vacations. But what they will remember even more is you. They will remember the times you spent splashing the water around in the pool and being present. Those will be their treasured memories.

Are You Truly Rich?

No one will argue that currency has changed over the years. Financial wealth was once determined by the quantity of livestock or precious metals you possessed. Today it is defined by the sum of your assets, your salary, the value of your home, and your stock portfolio. Even then, the determination of temporal wealth today isn’t necessarily tangible. You can sum up all of the monthly statements you receive and ultimately come up with a number but what is it that you really have? Better yet, how do you know if you are rich?

While currency in its form has changed over time, one thing remains the same: money will never cease being a true indication of the condition of our hearts. Jesus said in Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” The Word of God gives us two examples that show what devotion to one or the other looks like. We all know the story of the rich man who desired eternal life but was unable to leave all of his possessions behind in order to receive it. They were simply too important to him and as the scriptures say, he went away grieved because of it. We also know the account in Mark chapter 12 as Jesus observed the people as they came and put money into the treasury. The financially rich individuals were giving large sums of money. Jesus was not impressed by the amount of their giving. Rather, He directed the disciples to the poor widow who contributed two small copper coins, as this was all she possessed.

It’s not difficult to determine who the individuals in these accounts were devoted to. What about you? If you cannot serve God and wealth, then whom or what does your giving indicate that you are serving? If you have allowed wealth to become your master, here are a few simple steps to get you on the right track:

  • Remember that “the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17)
  • Remember that we are merely stewards of what we have been given and will one day give an account of how we have used what He has given us.
  • Remember that you will never find contentment in worldly things and that true contentment is only found in Him!
  • Turn your eyes upon Jesus!

Examine Your Love

Regeneration. In Christian circles, that’s a ten-dollar word that refers to the spiritual transformation of a person, brought about by the Holy Spirit, which changes that person from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive. It is another way of referring to the second birth or being born again (John 3:3), which, according to Jesus, is a requirement to get into heaven (John 3:7). It’s part of becoming a Christian, as evidenced by becoming a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17); God is in the business of restoring people spiritually. So if Christians are new people, how should that affect their finances?

One area is our generosity. Christians should be giving people. If we are truly focused on Christ and all He gave for us to inherit eternal life (His life), then giving of ourselves becomes less of a burden. I remember when I was first ushered into His kingdom, when I became a Christian, I was aglow with new love for Christ. When I first heard of His command to give a tithe (a tenth) of my income to support the work of the church (Mal.3:10), I freely gave it because my Lord commanded it. To love Christ is to love His commands and do what He asks (John 14:15)—so when He says, “Give,” we say, “How much?” We give because we love the Lord and we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). We give because He gave Himself first. That’s the pattern. This kind of giving, filled with affection for Christ, is the very essence of being a cheerful giver, which God says He loves (2 Cor.9:7).

When I first became a Christian, I was the very definition of a cheerful giver. If you looked up the meaning of the term in a commentary on 2 Corinthians, there would’ve been a picture of my face next to the explanation: to be a cheerful giver means to give like this guy. However, what about now? I have to confess that I don’t always give so cheerfully now. Sometimes I give out of routine—and with the invention of electronic giving, many times my giving is completely devoid of any love for Him.

So what has happened? Did He change His command to give? Did His fatal sacrifice on my behalf change? Has His affection toward cheerful givers changed? No, nothing on God’s part has changed. The change is all mine. My focus on Christ has changed. My love for Him has waned. The glow of my first love has dimmed. If you’re like me and find yourself challenged at times by your giving, don’t question your finances or look to your budget; question your love.

Lord, give us grace to repent and return to our first love where giving was a delight in light of Your sacrifice for us. Help us to value You above all else.

Can Money Influence Your Faith?

Does your behavior change based on your financial situation? For example, are you more generous when you feel you have an abundance? How about the opposite? Are you stingy when you feel things are tight with your finances? Most of us are usually not “always” generous or “always” stingy (I said most), we typically change based on our financial situation, don’t we?

In her blog post on Money Crashers, Jacqueline Curtis writes:

Going from rags to riches is essentially the American Dream. Whether it happens by way of a better-paying job or winning the lottery, some studies suggest that money can change your behavior—and not always for the better. Of course, there are plenty of charitable, helpful, and giving wealthy people. However, results from some studies have proven that they may be the exception, rather than the rule.

Your thoughts, behavior, and actions are all linked to your psychology, which is composed of a host of factors ranging from your genetic makeup to the way you were raised. While money doesn’t exactly shape your belief system, it can influence the way you think and act toward others. Gaining a better understanding of the sway that money—or the lack of it—may have on your behavior can make you more aware of when it might be pulling your strings and, hopefully, help you learn to stop it.

Aren’t you glad we serve a God who does not, cannot, and will not change? Malachi 3:6 says “For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” God owns it all; there is no “shadow of turning” from his revealed purpose or truth. We can count on Him to be and do exactly what He promises in His Word.

While our behavior may change based on our financial situation, our faith in Christ should never ever waver because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8).


Love, Anxiety, and Finances

Last February, I took stock of my love for Christ by examining how much of my thoughts and activities were occupied with Him in comparison to material possessions. I found that, while this fruit of the Spirit was present in my life, my affections were too often tied to temporal things, including “stuff.”

When I think about love and its relationship to finances this year, one convicting term immediately comes to mind: anxiety.

Anxiety is an issue repeatedly addressed in Scripture. We are cautioned to be anxious for nothing, told that we cannot serve both God and money, admonished that anxiety will not enrich our lives or add to our lifespan, and reassured that God will provide for our needs as we seek His kingdom and righteousness. I am familiar with these passages, and you might be too. So then, why do I struggle with anxiety when it comes to material things? It’s not because God’s Word is vague. It’s not because I love feeling anxious. I think it may be that I love comfort, and when I feel that my comfort is being threatened, I start to worry. I’ve never been hungry for lack of food. I’ve never been without shelter, nor without a host of other items that would be considered luxuries to many people. God has proven Himself to be faithful without exception and exceedingly generous to me. Yet, when appliances break down, clothes wear and get holes, and income is delayed, God’s faithfulness is the farthest thing from my mind. Without fail, I get anxious, wondering if this is the time we won’t be able to pay our bills. In my heart, this translates to questioning, “Is this the time God is going to forsake me?”

I’m not suggesting that anyone who struggles with anxiety does not love God. I do love God, and I want to obey His command to be “anxious for nothing.” To do this, I need to pray that God would remind me of the love poured out at Calvary’s cross, which is infinitely more valuable than any feeling of temporal comfort or security. I need to confess my anxiety to Him and trust Him to grow me in believing that He knows my needs and will provide for them all. Loving God means submitting to Him my own ideas of what my needs are and letting Him cut away things that draw me away from Him. Loving God means recognizing that my ties to material things are stronger than I’d like to admit and imploring God to help me not love the world, nor the things of the world.

Lord God, I love you. Please help me to love you more. I do not want to love things that thieves can steal and moths and rust can destroy. Work Your will in my heart that I may seek Your kingdom and righteousness and not material security. Amen.