It's been over forty years now, but I can still remember a large jug of liquid that my dad stored in the utility room of our basement. I can't even tell you what was in the container. I don't remember its color or size. But I do remember something about the label. There was a picture of a human skull and a pair of crossed bones on it. I remember learning that that was the universal sign of poison. It was the manufacturer's way of warning everyone-literate and illiterate, adult and child-not to swallow the stuff inside. It was clear that-unless I wanted to assume room temperature prematurely-I had better not mess with that bottle of liquid!

As I visit churches around the country presenting the No Debt No Sweat! Christian Money Management Seminar I run into a lot of people who don't realize that there's a skull and cross bones warning on their money.

In a less literal, yet equally important way, I want you to think of this as a "skull and cross-bones" article. This is where I hope to challenge you to get a God's-eye view of money. I want to warn you of some of the pitfalls that money can lead to. Because teaching people money management, debt control, and investing for the future, can be like playing with a beautiful candle in a room full of dynamite. It is so easy to turn virtue to vice, and allow a healthy interest in asset management to become an unhealthy focus on materialism.

Hopefully we can explore the way God wants us to view money and material goods without going to either of the extremes that are so prevalent in today's church. Without a Godly viewpoint, we are easy prey for those who preach a non-biblical theology of money. Usually it plays out in one of two extreme teachings: On one end of the spectrum are those who pitch a form of "Christian prosperity" that isn't much more than a sanitized form of greed; and at the other extreme are those who would urge a vow of poverty. As is the case with God and all His creation, balance in the area of money is critical.

Jesus' Lifestyle

Jesus had a curious approach to money -- He didn't seem to care whether a person had a lot of it, or not. Jesus looked at hearts-not check books. From the widow and her mite to the numerous street people, the Gospels are full of stories about Jesus befriending and ministering to the poor. He associated with lowly people and recognized their value before God even when the rest of society (including established religion) viewed them with contempt. He championed their cause and urged His followers to love, feed, clothe, and show them hospitality.

Jesus also had wealthy friends. I have long suspected that Mary, Martha and Lazarus must have had a large home in order to accommodate Jesus and His apostles when they came into town for a visit. And, let's not forget the story in Luke 8:13, of "...Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out their private means." (NASV) Apparently, women who had both pedigree and piles of cash financed Jesus' ministry! And do you remember Matthew, one of Jesus' apostles? He was a tax collector and, based on his ability to entertain, probably pretty well heeled financially. At Jesus' death, a wealthy disciple named Joseph supplied the burial chamber.

In His parables, Jesus made use of wealthy people. It took financial resources for the good Samaritan to minister to the injured man beside the road. The Bible says, that he "...brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.'" (Luke 10:34,35 NASV) This good man had more than good intentions-he had the resources to check his injured friend into a hotel. And, folks, we all know that you can't stay at a Hilton for free!