Written by Andrew Laird, Australia
Andrew works for City Bible Forum and is the National Manager of their Life@Work program, which aims to help Christians connect their faith with their daily work. He is the author of two books about work, including Under Pressure: How the Gospel Helps Us Handle the Pressures of Work. He is the former Dean of Ridley College’s Marketplace Institute, and has a background in radio journalism. He lives in Melbourne, is married to Carly and has three children.
Everything changed the day I got paid for the first time.
I’d been in my first full-time job for a little over two weeks when the money landed in my account. I’d never seen so much money there before. “I’m rich,” I thought to myself.
Sadly, that feeling didn’t last long. My lifestyle soon overtook the amount I was earning!
Just about everyone I speak to (myself included) feels that way—that no matter how long we’ve been working, our pay seems never quite enough. “If I could just get paid that little bit more,” we think.
One of the wonderful blessings of work is that we are remunerated for it. God has designed us to work, and for that work to either create what we need for survival or earn the money to buy the things we need (Proverbs 10:4, 30:8-9). We also use money to do great good for others—care for family and friends, provide for our children, and for us believers, support the gospel going to the ends of the earth.
But we also know the pursuit of money can become toxic: “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
How then do we balance working hard to earn money without giving in to its deadly pull? Here are four suggestions:
1. Challenge unquestioned views about money
To begin, it’s worth exploring whether we have adopted views about money from our family, or our culture, that aren’t in line with God’s view of wealth.
A common view of money is that it provides security. The often-unquestioned assumption is that we should do what we can to earn more so we can provide security for ourselves and our family. Savings are important so we have a backup “for a rainy day”.
Now there is much wisdom in this! The Bible warns against being foolish with our money and spending unwisely (Proverbs 21:5, 20).
Nevertheless, we should ask ourselves, “Am I justifying my pursuit of wealth in the name of security?” A good way to discern this is to ask others. Find a trusted friend and ask them, “Do you see any signs that I might be putting my trust in money rather than in Christ?”
The Bible warns against finding our security in material things: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord . . . But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence” (Jeremiah 17:5, 7, NLT).
Ultimate security cannot be found in money. It is fleeting, even for those who by our standards are wealthy and seem to have no worries in life as their money helps them to avoid harm (Proverbs 13:8).
We need to trust the words of Scripture and challenge this view with the truth that ultimate security is found in God, and He will give us all we need. “This same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, NLT).
2. Challenge your motivations
There’s another aspect to the way we deal with money that might need challenging: our motivations. Both pride and fear can be lurking beneath the surface, influencing our views of money.
For example, in many cultures, status is often associated with the amount of wealth that we have. We might measure our value and worth (or others’ value and worth) according to how much we have.
This can be subtle but think about who you are typically drawn to at a party, who you seek to do business with, or even spend time with at church. Often, they relate to what we have been able to do with money (interesting experiences we’ve had, travel we’ve undertaken, and so on). The same applies when we consider what we hope people might notice about us.
So, we should ask ourselves, “Is pride (the desire to be thought well of by others) motivating my views of wealth and its pursuit?”
In a similar way, fear of the opinion of others can drive ungodly motivations for accumulating wealth. We don’t want to be the one who suggests the cheaper place to eat together, a more affordable holiday, or the least expensive seats at a concert. And so we strive to earn more for the sake of keeping up with our friends.
We need to remind ourselves of the extravagant wealth we have in Christ, who has “lavished” upon us every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3-12), and richly provides us with everything we need for in this life (1 Timothy 6:17).
3. Remember your position
It’s not enough to simply challenge wrong views and motives; we need to replace them with the right view and motivation!
A foundational truth that can help us is remembering who owns our money. Ultimately, it all belongs to God, not us. Scripture says, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1-2), and this should make us pause and acknowledge this truth before God in prayer regularly!
In His great generosity, God has entrusted His “belongings” to us (Psalm 8:3-4, 6), and we’re to steward His good gifts for the benefit of others.
4. Adopt the posture of love
Like everything else in the Christian life, love for others should be what drives us in the way we see and handle money.
We see this motivation of love clearly in Ephesians 4:28. “Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labour and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy”. Money is for sharing and for loving others with, because as Scripture says, “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion” (2 Corinthians 9:10-11).
This is why the Bible speaks so strongly against hoarding. “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income . . . I have seen a grievous evil under the sun; wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner” (Ecclesiastes 5:10, 13). Hoarding money for ourselves will only end up corrupting us, because we will simply want more and more of it.
I liken hoarding our money, and being generous with it, with the water that flows into a dead-end catchment, and the ones that flow freely through a channel. When water runs into a dead-end and has nowhere to flow, it becomes stagnant, dirty, and smelly. It needs to keep flowing to remain fresh.
So too with money. When God entrusts us with wealth, the way we keep a healthy relationship with it is to not store it all up just for ourselves, but rather to be a conduit through which it flows for the benefit of others!
There is a joy that comes from giving, which we won’t get to experience if we never give! We need to trust Jesus when He says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
We might think, “I want to give, but money is tight at the moment. When things are a bit more secure, then I’ll give”. However, the encouragement in Scripture is not to give out of excess but give in a way that might cost us (2 Corinthians 8:2-5). We can do this when we really look to Jesus, who did not count the cost of giving us His life.
Jesus had no problem with being wealthy (materially and spiritually), but what did He do with His extravagant wealth? “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that through His poverty you might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
He spent His wealth out of love for you and me. Remembering this will keep us on the right path and ensure that we are not consumed by the love of money.