Using Biblical Principles in Financial Decisions
- Howard Dayton <i>Baptist Press</i>
- 2005 4 Apr
Christians make the best financial decisions when they are eager to understand God's biblical directives and follow His plan for their lives.
Every decision believers make requires a thorough understanding of God's attitudes, and that understanding comes from studying God's Word and communicating with Him. If Christians never ask God's direction regarding investments of financial decisions, they never will receive an answer.
The following principles should be considered when making financial decisions.
Christians should seek God's increase for them rather than trying to increase their financial worth through speculative schemes.
Many enticing programs and "guaranteed" moneymaking schemes are not only unethical but may also border on being illegal. Assess every so-called opportunity based on your relationship with Christ, and don't let others make financial decisions for you. Make decisions in light of your goals, whether the venture is necessary, and whether it fits into God's individual plan for your life. Precondition your attitudes to avoid speculative "opportunities."
Keep finances current.
Christians need always to manage their finances on a current basis and make no provision to borrow money beyond their ability to repay. If what you want or desire jeopardizes your future financial freedom, forget it. Impulse buying, whether for consumable goods or investments, is disastrous to budgets. Evaluate purchases or investments by always considering the financial obligation in light of your known income or available funds.
Plan for tomorrow by prudence today; make plans in light of present circumstances, not on some future event; and maintain the principle of staying debt free.
Uphold Christian witness.
Consider every decision -- including financial decisions -- on the basis of its effect on the work and reputation of Christ. God must never be backed into a financial corner and called on only during a time of economic crisis. To pursue blindly a course without a directive from God, and then depend on Him to rectify any resultant financial disasters isn't God's will.
As an example, if you must borrow outside of God's people in order to remain in His will, beware, because "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender" (Proverbs 22:7).
When Christians deal unfairly or unethically with an individual or business, it is the Christians' witness that will suffer. Therefore, no matter what the circumstances, tell the whole truth, keep your vows, make decisions based on God's directive and God's plan, maintain financial honesty and preserve the integrity of Christ in every aspect of your life.
Give -- don't loan.
Christians should avoid lending to those in need. If possible, simply give. When someone approaches you requesting financial help in order to acquire some want or desire, seriously question that request and justification for the request. However, if the person is in need and God directs you to help him or her, then it is your responsibility as a Christian to supply that need.
When you cosign, you pledge personal assets against the debt of another. It doesn't matter whether it is personal or business, Scripture specifically forbids this whenever it speaks of surety or striking [shaking] hands, and warns against it.
"If you have put up security [surety] for your neighbor [or friend] or entered into an agreement [shaken hands] with a stranger, you have been trapped by the words of your lips -- ensnared by the words of your mouth. Do this, then, my son, and free yourself, for you have put yourself in your neighbor's power: Go, humble yourself, and plead with your neighbor" (Proverbs 6:1-3). (Words added within the text for emphasis.)
Christians must learn to distinguish between needs, wants and desires in every financial transaction. This applies both to purchases of material goods and investments.
Before you buy something, determine whether the purchase is a need or desire, then check it against God's principles. Before investing, be sure you know your reason for investing and what you'll do with the money if God blesses with increase.
Many Christians are frustrated because they cannot distinguish between luxuries and necessities. Consequently, they seek fulfillment through the same channels as non-Christians and then wonder why they have fruitless Christian witnesses. There's nothing wrong with living comfortably, but God doesn't want us to live lavishly.
Prepare for decreases.
A vital part of keeping financially current is being prepared for unexpected decreases in funds. Evaluate financial decisions on the basis of what could happen if there was even a small decrease of income or available funds. Could you make adequate adjustments to live within new spending parameters without having to go into debt in order to maintain your current lifestyle?
Don't operate at the upper limit of income or available funds. Instead, make your financial decisions being mindful of the possibility that a sudden drop in income might require that you reduce your current living standards.
Let peace rule.
Often, God uses inner turmoil, a "lack of peace," to provide direction. If He doesn't give you peace about something, don't become involved, especially when quick decisions are required. Take the time to think and to pray about any decision -- especially financial decisions that will affect your family, and be determined not to make any financial decision under pressure. "The LORD's blessing enriches, and struggle adds nothing to it" (Proverbs 10:22).
Listen to God's Word.
Become sensitive to God's guidance by being familiar with His directives and leadership procedures, through the study of His Word, and by communicating with Him through prayer.
God provides the right direction for those who seek it. Even when you fail to see the right path clearly in the Bible, or fail to hear Him in prayer, He never will fail to place an unrest or a peace inside you that will confirm His preferred course and His will. Be sensitive to God's leading and you'll avoid financial failures and bondage.
Howard Dayton is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries. Dayton and the late Larry Burkett joined forces in 2000 when Crown Ministries, led by Dayton, merged with Christian Financial Concepts, led by Burkett. The new organization became Crown Financial Ministries, on the Web at www.crown.org.
© 2005 Baptist Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.