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Is Our Theology of Money Upside Down?

Theology of Money

People are not instinctively generous. I don’t think that will come as a shock.

If sin causes us to live for ourselves, and the Bible declares it does in 2 Corinthians 5:15, then we will struggle with an obsessive self-focus over money.

When it comes to our income, we tend to think first of ourselves—what I need, what I want, what dream money can buy—before we think of how we can be generous with it.

I am not suggesting that we are never generous; instead, I want to expose a struggle between what God intends for our money, what we say we believe about our Lord, and how we respond accordingly with our bank accounts.

Here’s the big-picture summary: Could we have our whole theology of money upside down?

I don’t know about you, but I tend to consider my income as God’s primary means of providing for my family and me… and then, oh yes, almost as an afterthought, he has called me to give.

But could it be that Scripture teaches the opposite? What if God’s primary purpose for money is that we would be participants in his generosity narrative … and then, oh yes, almost as an afterthought, he also uses it to provide for us daily?

It’s too long to unpack in this brief devotional, but Matthew 6:19–34 reminds us that our financial burden belongs to the Lord. Jesus teaches that financial sanity begins with believing that you have a heavenly Father who will supply what you need.

While it may sound radical, God’s promise to provide everything we need is throughout Scripture (see Phil. 4:19, Matt. 6:31–32, Matt. 7:11, Luke 12:24, Job 38:41, Ps. 34:10 and more).

So, because God has taken the burden of physical provision from our feeble hands and into his capable ones, we are free to have a grander vision for our money.

This brand-new way of thinking about money is most powerfully captured by Ephesians 4:28. Read the words carefully:

“Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.”

Notice that Scripture doesn’t say, “. . . so that he will have a more legal way to provide for himself.” The self-centered thief is not meant to become a self-centered worker. That means he would have only changed the method of accumulating wealth for himself, not the motive.

The shift in Ephesians 4:28 is from self-focused (stealing) to God-honoring and others-focused (working and giving).

God’s grace is powerful enough to transform how we view and interact with money at the core of who we are. He intends to free us from viewing money as something we accumulate and replace it with an attitude of radical generosity.

Without this rescuing grace, our pursuit of money will be dominated by self-focus, and we’ll try somehow to squeeze God into the plan as an afterthought.

Meanwhile, I’m concerned that the typical Christian discussion of money revolves around:

  • How to get out of debt
  • How to have financial stability for retirement
  • What exactly defines a tithe

None of these is wrong, and all of them are helpful in some way, but the whole plan is devoid of the broader considerations of our call: to live as God’s generous and loving ambassadors on earth.

When it comes to our finances, God calls us to stop starting with ourselves and hoping there’s money left over for him. Instead, the call is to willingly and joyfully accept that our money’s primary purpose is to fund a kingdom of generosity, in worship and service of him.

And then trust that God will provide what we need.

To be clear: The Bible isn’t calling us to quit paying our bills and stop buying groceries and clothing. Instead, it’s a call to examine our heart, which controls our financial lives, and make sure we have the order right.

May God, in faithful grace, continue to liberate us from our bondage to us. In so doing, he will liberate our wallets from their bondage to self-focus—freeing us to represent our generous Savior with our money.

God bless,

Paul David Tripp

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

1. How did you think about and treat your income this week? What was your instinctive response to money?

2. How were you generous this week, with either your time, money, or gifts? How is this a sign of the Spirit at work in your life?

3. Has giving been an afterthought for you at any point during your life? Today, could it be that you might try to squeeze God into your budget if there is room?

4. How has God provided for you in the past? How is he providing for you today? Do you still struggle to believe that provision is his burden and not yours?

5. How can you apply Ephesians 4:28 to your current financial circumstances? Why will you need the rescuing, transforming grace of Christ

This article about the theology of money originally appeared here.

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Paul David Tripp is a pastor, author, and international conference speaker. He is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries and works to connect the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life. This vision has led Paul to write many books on Christian living and travel around the world speaking and teaching. Paul's driving passion is to help people understand how the gospel of Jesus Christ speaks with practical hope into all the things people face in this broken world. Paul and his wife Luella reside Philadelphia. They are the parents of four grown children.