Our worldview and values determine how we make financial decisions in life. A wise move from an earthly viewpoint may not necessarily be so from an eternal perspective.
A man asked Jesus to mediate in the task of dividing the inheritance with his brother. But Jesus did not entertain his request. Sensing his greed and self-centredness, the supreme Judge of man’s heart, instead warned him: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15).
Next, Jesus told him a parable to illustrate the danger of merely focusing on worldly wealth. In the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21), the main character thought that he had made a most worry-free decision. The best way to ensure a good future, he thought, is to accumulate more and more riches so that he can afford to sit back, eat, drink and be merry. So after a bumper harvest, he decided to break down his existing barns and build bigger barns to store grain.
But he did not foresee that God would suddenly snatch away his life. And then who will be the beneficiaries? His next-of-kin would be the ones making merry instead. (By the way, that’s how we get the term, ‘merry widow’).
Jesus concluded the parable by saying that those who lay up treasures for themselves and are not rich towards God are just like this rich fool.
The other extreme is a Christian who takes to heart Jesus’ teaching (Luke 12: 24-31) not to worry about his material needs as the creator who feeds the ravens and causes the lilies to thrive will be faithful in meeting his needs. His understanding, based on God’s love and care for His creation, is that there is no need to save, work hard or plan. And if, long ago, God could provide for the prophet Elijah’s needs through the raven and the brook, can’t He similarly meet the needs of those who serve Him today?
The third scenario is the believer who commits to God his finances (Proverbs 3:5-6) but realises that he too must play an active role in determining the fate of his personal finances. He believes that he must work hard, save, exercise prudence and invest taking into account calculated risks, just like the faithful stewards in the Parable of the Talents.
We have just alluded to three classes of people who make financial decisions based on markedly different worldviews. The rich fool only thinks about the ‘here and now’ and what this world has to offer whereas the other two categories have both eternal and temporal concerns in mind, albeit in varying degrees.
Scenario A: Personal finances under absolute control by man. God is out of the picture.
Scenario B: God is almost 100% in the picture. Faith is so strong trait in this person that he hardly sees any need to play an active role. He may have an unspoken distrust for hard work, saving and investing because he feels that these are “props” that take his eyes away from God.
Scenario C: A balanced view. While it’s important to trust God and not worry about our finances, he sees the need to play an active role as a coworker with God in determining his financial future.
Which view do you think is most closely aligned with the Bible?
Does financial planning negate faith?
When we work hard, save and invest, does it mean we are not trusting God enough?
Are donor-supported ministers and other believers supposed to operate differently when it comes to making wise financial decisions?
How do we maintain a close walk with God and yet make wise financial decisions that ensure a stable and secure future?
Is self-preservation a desirable trait for believers?
I will not be dogmatic on this issue, except to say that the first category—those who are akin to the rich fool— will really regret one day for having made these so-called “wise”, “worry-free decisions” in life.
Now investment, in itself, is not wrong. But when it merely focuses on self and puts God out of the picture, then it is useless from an eternal perspective. “Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death” (Proverbs 11:4).
It is up to believers to choose for themselves whether they should embrace the second or third model.
To help them think through the broad ramifications of this issue of making wise financial decisions, here are some posts on faith and how it relates to our finances.
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
Note: Dr Lim Poh Ann is a medical practitioner. He was the former editor of Asian Beacon magazine (December 2008 – October 2011). He can be reached at his blog, Porridge for the Soul: http://limpohann.blogspot.com/