This article is part of the Help! series.
Christians can struggle with money—we can be honest. Some of us live paycheck to paycheck. Some are deep in debt. Even Christians who are affluent by global standards often have trouble with the household budget and making ends meet.
Nor is that the extent of our financial concerns. There are sites and sermons that make it sound like God is waiting to bless us until we do x, y, or z. Persistent needs are all around us—and all around the world. There are family commitments, house repairs, fundraisers, retirement, etc.
Add to that our doubts and insecurities about how we handle our relationships, responsibilities, priorities, along with their financial consequences, and it’s a lot! So, what can Christians take away from all this?
“Blessed are the poor . . .”
Contrary to the “prosperity gospel,” having plenty of money is not a sign of God’s favor. According to Jesus, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God . . . . But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation” (Luke 6:20, 24).
In other words, being rich can make it harder to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24). Faith can be misplaced onto money. Wealth can contribute to idolizing ourselves and our efforts. Even the non-wealthy face these temptations. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith” (1 Timothy 6:10).
Meanwhile, the God of the Scriptures pays special attention to the poor. The heavenly Father sent his Son into the flesh to preach to the poor (Luke 7:22). For our sake, Jesus became poor Himself, leaving every entitlement for us, “so that you by His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
“Blessed are you who are poor” (Luke 6:20). “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). And, “Blessed is the one who considers the poor!” (Psalm 41:1).
In the early church, some Christians took these teachings so literally that they practiced voluntary poverty as a spiritual discipline. Some would fast and give the money they saved to the poor. Others would live radically simple lifestyles in order to get by on the smallest amount of money possible.
Regretfully, a practice to emphasize charity and our continual dependence upon God became twisted. By the Middle Ages, vows of poverty became a required tool to emphasize so-called good works and to elevate some over others.
As Martin Luther reformed, he re-examined poverty. He reconsidered what God calls Christians to do. In the light of Scripture and the Good News of free, undeserved salvation by Jesus Christ, preaching began to re-emphasize that Christians live out faith to God within callings—our vocations—in family, church, and civil society.
God has established a beautiful, blessed system of giving and receiving in this world, emanating from his Word. Spouses love and serve one another. Parents provide for children until children, too, provide for others—even their parents (1 Timothy 5:4). Neighbors love neighbors. Employers are to benefit employees and vice versa. Within this vocational give and take, we are free to love and serve our neighbors, carrying our crosses and sharing their burdens.
Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). There are crosses and struggles in Christian life that God uses to make us more like Christ (Ephesians 5:1–2). There are other tensions in this world, too, but our finances are one more area in which God calls us to deny ourselves and depend ever more on him and his gifts.
The positive side is that, no matter how much or how little we have, we are freed to acknowledge that we are not the source of daily bread at all. God is!
Now, when we are puffed up in pride, we are camels trying to squeeze through the eye of the needle. That is not the way to enter the kingdom of God. Nor is it the loving service and justice God demands.
Thanks be to God that he himself pulls us through the needle’s eye (Matthew 19:26). He brings the rich—Old Testament patriarchs and affluent Americans—and the poor—begging Lazarus and debtors around the world—into his own Kingdom through his Son. The Lord blesses both the poor and the poor in spirit, demonstrating time and again that he is the giver of every good gift (James 1:17), the source of every blessing.
God Is the Provider
Most of us are not poor in an extreme sense. We are more likely financially stretched and internally conflicted. Rather than financially poor, we are worried and overwhelmed. Yet, our Creator takes care of us as a father. And, would the Father who sent us his Son deny us food (Luke 11:11–13)?
God has established a beautiful, blessed system of giving and receiving in this world, emanating from his Word.
We are wholly dependent upon our Lord and largely dependent upon one another. As members of our families, God calls us to love and serve one another, and, as members of the Household of God, are called to practice stewardship over the gifts God has given us.
In the ancient world, economy meant working and supporting one’s family and oneself. In Greek, the root word actually translates as “household management.” How differently we view economy today! But the holy Trinity is God of creation. He understands that we have physical needs. He also provides for them, directly and indirectly, typically through family and all the good things we do for the livelihood of both younger and older generations (1 Timothy 5:8).
As stewards, Christians are free to administer the gifts we receive as we see fit according to his Word. We acknowledge that both debts and the needs of others are within our Lord’s purview, and we seek our Lord’s guidance and depend upon his good will. And, as those unafraid to be the poor in spirit, Christians are free to run to the One who feeds, clothes, and shelters us!
When we seek discernment, we can ask: What has God really promised me? What is his “daily bread” for my family and me? Who has God given as help for my family and me? Upon that foundation, we can then turn to consider: How can I live today within what God has given me? And, how can I help without always resorting to money?
There is no doubt that Christians need to periodically prune our schedules and spending. Part of Christian pruning may be facing our insecurities. Secure in the love of Christ, our relationships cannot depend on what we can buy. As Christians, we can renew thanks for, and re-cultivate, interests and interactions with the free gifts—and neighbors—God has given.
When we need courage to face our anxieties about what to eat, drink, wear, reap, or store (Matthew 6:25–34), the Holy Spirit answers. In Jesus, we are fed by God’s Word, given the living water of the Spirit, clothed with God’s own righteousness, sheltered by our Mighty Fortress, treated as recipients of God’s own good gifts and deeds, and invited to the very storehouse of every blessing for the life to come.
When we are anxious about how we are handling our money, we can remember that our heavenly Father provides for his children and even the birds and flowers of the field (Matthew 6:26, 28). When we are fearful of our debts, we can remember that Christ has paid the largest debt—our sin—and, although smaller debts remain, we have the eternal, steadfast mercy of our Master and Lord. Our Savior has bought us (1 Corinthians 6:19–20), and he will keep us in his care forevermore (Numbers 6:24–25).
Jesus closes the “financial Beatitudes” saying, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34 b). This can remind us of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
We may be in debt. We may be in need. Still, God promises us our daily bread. Furthermore, he gives us something far greater: the living Bread from Heaven, Jesus, who gives us eternal life, and who is with us daily and always.
Mary J. Moerbe is the coauthor, with Gene Edward Veith Jr., of Family Vocation: God’s Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood.