Two national Christian financial advisers both name the Bible as their primary resource for money advice and base their money management programs in scripture.
Howard Dayton, cofounder of Crown Financial Ministries, says more than 2,000 scripture verses concern money. And, using the Bible for instruction on financial management seems like a no-brainer to Dave Ramsey, creator of Financial Peace University.
“It works, if you bother,” Ramsey said. “It’s worth studying … to learn what God says about money and then start doing it, because it works.”
But which verses? The ones about wealth and prosperity as part of a life with God? What about Jesus’ instruction to the rich young man to sell all he owns? Those messages seem contradictory to some Christians.
Author and speaker Tony Campolo, founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, says that in the New Testament “we have some real problems with the accumulation of wealth.”
“Wealth can do things to people,” Campolo says. “It alters the way you see the world. … I don’t think we realize the impact wealth has on us and on our spiritual lives.”
Though Campolo explained he considers neither poverty nor wealth conditions for salvation, he expressed skepticism about maintaining wealth in Christian life.
“If you take (the story) as an indictment of the rich, then you’d have to say no rich people ever went to heaven,” he said.
“The idea that we’re not supposed to manage money — lots of it — is crazy. But God does also call people to poverty,” Ramsey said. “You find people on all points of the spectrum who are walking with God.”
Darin Petersen works with Shane Claiborne, author of Irresistible Revolution and founder of The Simple Way community, to experiment with ways Christians can share resources and support one another spiritually and financially.
“Wealth can give you a sense of independence and a sense of self-sufficiency to where you are no longer living in a community of interdependency,” Petersen said.
Petersen and Claiborne cofounded Relational Tithe, a community network that developed from conversations about responsibly handling resources. Relational Tithe is an economically diverse Christian community of 35 people who tithe 10 percent of their resources to a community fund and redistribute it among themselves according to need.
Relational Tithe also networks hundreds of similar groups to share experiences and new ideas, and they’re working to develop technological tools to “enhance the process of redistribution” and help groups in collaboration.
The community encourages “a healthy understanding of a theology of ‘enough,’” Petersen said.
Relationships are central to the community’s resource management process.
“There’s no more than one degree of separation between the recipient and the giver,” Petersen said. “It’s not that the rich and poor no longer care about one another; it’s that they don’t know one another. We’re trying to create a place where people can know one another.”
One way Petersen challenges congregations to give creatively is to put a limit on how much money in offerings goes to the church itself. Money received above that limit is distributed to the poor. When churches have tried the method, the result is astounding, Petersen said.
“Giving goes through the roof, because people’s imaginations are sparked,” he observed. “It really starts to challenge people’s ideas of needs and wants.”
Financial health package
Across three issues of the Biblical Recorder and numerous postings online, the BR staff compiled stories dealing with financial health, budgeting, teaching children about money, stewardship issues, etc. For a complete list, click here.