The current global financial crisis has sent shock waves throughout every sector of the economy. And as if this crisis were not enough to worry about, it seems that scam artists are flourishing everywhere as well. Business leaders, church leaders, and individual families are understandably concerned. What is the appropriate Christian response? The Bible has answers.
An interesting and amazing story is recorded in the Old Testament, whose principles would apply well to our current economic crisis. Our crisis, like the one faced by the kingdom of Judah, has the very real potential to harm God’s church on earth and our own individual lives.
Toward the close of Jehoshaphat’s reign the kingdom of Judah was invaded by an army before whose approach the inhabitants of the land had reason to tremble. Jehoshaphat was a man of courage and valor. He had been strengthening his armies and his fortified cities for years. He was well prepared to meet almost any enemy. Yet in this crisis he did not put his confidence in his own strength but in the power of God. He set himself to seek the Lord and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.
People gathered in the court of the temple, as Solomon had prayed that they would if they were faced by danger. They prayed that God’s name might be glorified. Then the king prayed, “We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chron. 20:12).
After committing themselves to God, the Spirit of the Lord came upon a man of God who said, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. . . . You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you” (verses 15-17).
No one has ever trusted God in vain. He never disappoints those who depend on Him.
Early the next morning the king assembled the people with the Levitical choir in front to sing the praises of God. Then he admonished: “Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful” (verse 20). Then the choir began to sing and their enemies “helped to destroy one another” (verse 23). It took the men of Judah three days just to collect the spoils of the battle. On the fourth day they returned to Jerusalem, singing as they went.
No one has ever trusted God in vain. He never disappoints those who depend on Him. We must prepare well. But then we must recognize our weakness and depend 100 percent on the power of God for our deliverance. It is tempting to trust in the power of the government, or in our retirement accounts, but in every crisis mentioned in the Bible (ours is a real crisis too), when people trusted in God He honored their trust and provided for them.
I’m not trying to minimize the severity of our problems. Just the opposite: our only and best hope is to trust God and be faithful to our covenant with Him. Ellen White observed: “He who gave His only-begotten Son to die for you has made a covenant with you. He gives you His blessings, and in return He requires you to bring Him your tithes and offerings.”1
She also wrote: “No one sees the hand that lifts the burden, or beholds the light descend from the courts above. The blessing comes when by faith the soul surrenders itself to God. Then that power which no human eye can see creates a new being in the image of God.”2 The same unseen power that brings about conversion is evident in God’s providential leading in our everyday lives.
There is no guarantee of universal wealth this side of heaven, but the principles for Christian money management do not change. They are always the same. By analogy, a healthy diet can often help regardless of one’s chronic disease. A healthful diet is a healthy diet. Eat a variety of unrefined fruits, grains, nuts, and vegetables in sufficient quantity to maintain your ideal weight, and you will be better off than changing diet for every health concern that comes along. This analogy works for financial management as well.
The seven following principles for sound financial management are as simple as a good diet. If we don’t follow them, our financial security is at risk.
1. Put God first. The wise man’s counsel is still valid. “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Prov. 3:9, 10). Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [food, clothing, and shelter] will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33). Current economic conditions bring to mind the words of an old song: “If we ever needed the Lord before, we sure do need Him now.” Now is the time to trust that God will sustain us and provide for our needs (see also Deut. 28:1-14).
2. Spend less than you earn. We decry the government’s debt of more than $20 trillion, but consumers in North America are equally guilty of overspending. The outstanding credit card balances in the United States—the amount that is unpaid and carried over from month to month and charged a high rate of interest—is more than $930 billion.
The principle here is to be content with what we have and learn to live within our income (see 1 Tim. 6:6-10). It is estimated that 43 percent of North American families spend more than they earn each year.
3. Save something every pay period. Those who have followed this principle and have at least six months of living expenses in cash savings in the bank are in much better shape that those who are in debt. A savings account provides protection when there is a job loss, car breakdown, health concern, or other occurrence that could hurt your financial security. A nice little nest egg can help weather an economic storm and makes good sense.
Ellen White offered this counsel: “You might today have had a capital of means to use in case of emergency and to aid the cause of God, if you had economized as you should. Every week a portion of your wages should be reserved and in no case touched unless suffering actual want, or to render back to the Giver in offerings to God.”3
4. Do everything you can to keep your job. The Bible says, “Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank” (Prov. 22:29). There is much said about work and integrity in the Bible. Ask God for wisdom to do your work efficiently, so that you will be able to continue to work in these hard times. If you should lose your job, be willing to work at whatever job is available that will not violate your conscience.
5. Be conservative with your investments. Remember, there is no more secure investment than investing in your own debt. Beyond paying off your debts during times of uncertainty, the better part of wisdom suggests that investments be on the conservative side. When we have a surplus of means, it is a good time to “invest” in the cause of God. The needs of God’s work continue even in hard times.
Many of us have accumulated assets over our lifetimes, and it’s a good idea to liquidate the unneeded assets for three reasons: to pay off debts; to advance the cause of God; and so that not much of our “stuff” gets burned up at the end.4
6. Ask God for wisdom to make good earning, saving, and spending decisions. Again, God’s Word directs: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:5, 6; see also Phil. 4:19 and Isa. 26:3). As Creator and Owner of every
thing, God has the unique ability to guide us in life. We must trust Him explicitly in this area of our lives. Enjoy the blessings of God by living prudently and helping others who are less fortunate.
7. Don’t lose sight of the goal. Our real home is in heaven. Someday soon everything on this earth will be burned up. The Bible says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and . . . everything done in it will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:10). This will not be a great disappointment to true Christians. Their treasures will be laid up securely in heaven.
The financial stresses of our economy can be greatly reduced or eliminated by following these seven principles. They have been given to us by God in His love for our best good. In looking back on his life, David said, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” (Ps. 37:25).
Surely each of us can likewise see the blessing and hand of God in our lives.
G. Edward Reid is an ordained minister and licensed attorney who served for many years as director of Stewardship Ministries for the North American Division.