Chapter OneMoney: Why Is It
So Important to God?
Reading adapted from Money, Possessions
and Eternity, by Randy Alcorn
Were I the Bible's editor, I would cut out much of
what it says about money and possessions.
Anyone can see it devotes a disproportionate
amount of space to a subject of secondary importance.
When it comes to money and possessions, the Bible is sometimes
redundant, often extreme, and occasionally shocking.
And, after all, we come to the Bible for comfort-not
for a lecture on finances. If we want to know about money,
we can go to Fortune, Forbes, or the Wall Street Journal.
Scripture should concern itself with the spiritual and
heavenly. Money is physical and earthly. The Bible is religious;
money is secular. Let God talk about love and grace
and brotherhood, thank you. Let the rest of us talk about
money and possessions.
For serious Christians some hard questions are in order
here. How could the Bible's Author and Editor justify
devoting twice as many verses to money than to faith and
prayer combined? And how could Jesus say more about
money than both heaven and hell? Didn't he know what
was really important?
The sheer enormity of Scripture's teaching on this subject
screams for our attention. And the haunting and
immensely important question is, why? Why did the Savior
of the world say more about how we are to view and handle
money and possessions than about any other single thing?
Money and Conversion
The enigma deepens when we look at how closely
Jesus linked money to salvation itself. When Zacchaeus
said he would give half his money to the poor and pay
back four times over those he had cheated, Jesus did not
merely say, "Good idea." He said, "Today salvation has
come to this house" (Luke 19:9). This is amazing. Jesus
judged the reality of this man's salvation based on his
willingness, no, his cheerful eagerness to part with his
money for the glory of God and the good of others.
Zacchaeus is not an isolated case. When his audience
asked John the Baptist what they should do to bear the
fruit of repentance, first he told them to share their clothes
and food with the poor. Then he told the tax collectors not
to collect and pocket extra money. And finally he told
the soldiers not to extort money and to be content with
their wages (Luke 3:7-14). In all three cases, the conclusive
proof of a spiritual change was an altered perspective
on the handling of money and possessions.
In Mark 12 we meet a poor widow. She put in the temple
offering box two tiny copper coins, worth a fraction of
a penny. This was the only money she had. Jesus called his
disciples together to teach them a lesson from the woman.
Did he question the wisdom of her actions? Did he say
she should have been more sensible? No, he gave her an
unqualified commendation for her choice: "I tell you the
truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than
all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she,
out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live
on" (vv. 43-44). Jesus enshrined her example in the Word
of God that all believers in the future might emulate her
faith, commitment, and sacrificial generosity.
To liquidate and disperse cheerfully the assets one had
spent a lifetime accumulating was no more natural then
than now. And that is the whole point. Conversion and
the filling of the Holy Spirit were supernatural experiences
that produced supernatural responses. While there
was still the private ownership of property, the joyful
giving and sharing of this property became the new
"norm" of supernatural living.
If a first-century Christian were to visit us today and
gauge our spiritual condition by our attitudes and actions
regarding money and possessions, what conclusions
would he come to?
The Story Money Tells
Money is a litmus test of our true character. It is an
index of our spiritual life. Our stewardship of money tells
a deep and consequential story. It forms our biography. In
a sense, how we relate to money and possessions is the
story of our lives.
If this is true of all men in all ages, does it not have special
application to us who live in a time and place of unparalleled
affluence? Take a man or woman who works from
age twenty-five to sixty-five and makes $15,000 a year. In
his lifetime this person of modest income by our standards
will handle well over half a million dollars. He will manage
a fortune. And if Scripture is true, and men must give an
account of their lives to God (Rom. 14:12), then one day this
man must answer these questions: Where did it all go?
What did I spend it on? What has been accomplished for
eternity through my use of all this wealth?
In the account of the poor widow, Mark wrote, "Jesus
sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put
and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple
treasury" (Mark 12:41).
Notice we are not told, "Jesus happened to see"
No, it seems he deliberately watched to observe what
people were giving.
Jesus was interested enough in who was giving what to
make an immediate object lesson to the disciples about the
true nature of trusting God as demonstrated in sacrificial
If we stop to think about it, this passage makes all of
us who suppose that what we do with our money is our
business and only our business feel terribly uncomfortable.
On the contrary, it is painfully apparent that it isGod's business-that God makes it his business. He does
not apologize for watching with intense interest what we
do with the money he has entrusted to us. If we use our
imaginations, we might even peer into the invisible realm
to see him gathering some of his subjects together this
very moment. Perhaps you can hear him using your handling
of finances as an object lesson. The question is, what
kind of lesson?
Getting Close to Home
Sometimes more is to be learned from the passages of
Scripture we avoid or skim over than those we underline
or post on our refrigerator. The Bible contains an arsenal
of such verses on the subject of money and possessions,
and they just keep firing away at us.
The more we allow ourselves to grapple with these
unsettling passages, the more we are pierced. Our only
options, it seems, are to let Christ wound us until he
accomplishes what he wishes, or to avoid his words and
his gaze and his presence altogether by staying away from
his Word. The latter option is easier in the short run. But
no true disciple can really be content with it.
By now some readers are long gone and others who
remain are uncomfortable. I must admit that I share your
discomfort. You may even be thinking, "I'd rather not
deal with these issues. I'm content doing what I'm doing."
But are you really content? Are any of us who know
Christ, who have his Spirit within, really content when we
haven't fully considered his words? When we haven't
completely opened ourselves to what he has for us? Comfortable,
perhaps. Complacent, certainly. But not content.
I, for one, hate to live with that nagging feeling deep
inside that when Jesus called people to follow him he had
more in mind than I'm experiencing. I don't want to miss
out on what he has for me. If he has really touched your
life, I don't think you do either.
For all these sobering implications, I must quickly add
that for me the process of discovering God's will about
money and possessions, rather than being burdensome,
has been tremendously liberating. My own growth and
enlightenment in financial stewardship has closely paralleled
my overall spiritual growth. In fact, it has propelled
it. I have learned more about faith, trust, grace, commitment,
and God's provision in this arena than in any other.
I have also learned why Paul said, "God loves a cheerful
giver," and I have found that a cheerful giver loves
God, and loves him more deeply each time he gives. To
me, one of the few experiences comparable to the joy of
leading someone to Christ is the joy of making wise and
generous choices with my money. Both are supreme acts
of worship. Both are what we were made for.
I write not as a critic or crusader but as an excited
learner. I feel like a child who has found a wonderful trail
hidden in the woods-a trail that countless others have
blazed but one which seems to the child to be as new and
fresh as if it had never before existed. The exhilaration of
this adventure is impossible to describe. It can only be
It's a bold statement: "Money and possessions are an index of
your spiritual life." Certainly, Jesus did nothing to take the
edge off. In fact, he reduced this truth to the simplest of terms
when he said, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be
also" (Matt. 6:21).
Your assignment for this session is to engage in an exercise of
ruthlessly honest observation concerning your heart and your treasures.
This week, as you interact with money and possessions-as
you make purchases, walk through stores, read magazines, watch
TV, interact with peers, manage your household-ask yourself this
question: "What is going on in my heart right now?"
Take specific note of these (or other) thoughts or feelings (or
the lack of them!) related to money and possessions that are triggered
throughout the day:
Delight Dissatisfaction Envy
Disappointment Anxiety Excitement
Insecurity Peace of mind Gratitude
Contentment Guilt Trust
Greed Anger Regret
At the end of each day, have a brief time of reflection. Make a
few notes in your journal or another place. What are you seeing in
yourself? Is there any dominant pattern? Anything that surprises
you? What summary statements can you make?
1. The reading states, "In a sense, how we relate to money and
possessions is the story of our lives." Take a few moments to
reflect on your upbringing. How would you summarize the
story of your family's life concerning money and possessions as
you were growing up?
What kind of training in money management, if any, did your
parents give you, and what impact did it have?
What other perspectives about money did you catch from their
attitudes and behaviors, positive or negative?
2. According to the reading, there is a sense in which our relationship
to money "forms our biography." If someone were to
read your biography-if they came to know you only by "reading"
your attitudes and behaviors toward money and possessions-what
five words would they use to describe you? (Consider asking a close friend to supplement your list.)
What truth does money tell about you that few people know?
3. Summarize the money-management principles found in Proverbs
6:6-11 and 27:23-27.
Now summarize Jesus' teaching in Matthew 6:25-34.
How do you resolve the differences between these apparently
conflicting teachings of Scripture?