THE adage “Money is the root of all evil” has often been ascribed to the Bible. What the Bible really says is: “The love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10, King James Version) Some people have indeed developed a fondness for money and have devoted themselves to the accumulation of riches. Some have become slaves of money and have reaped tragic consequences. When managed properly, however, money can be a useful tool. The Bible acknowledges that “money solves a lot of problems.”
Although the Bible does not claim to be a financial handbook, it does contain practical advice that can help you to manage money wisely. The following five steps are commonly recommended by financial advisers, and they are consistent with principles recorded in the Bible long ago.
Know what your income is, and spend less than you earn
Save. The Bible record shows that the ancient Israelites were taught the value of saving. They were told to set aside a tithe (or 10 percent) each year to be used exclusively for attending national festivals. (Deuteronomy 14:22-27) The apostle Paul likewise encouraged early Christians to set aside savings each week so that they could later contribute something to help their needy fellow believers. (1 Corinthians 16:1, 2) Most financial planners encourage saving. Make saving a priority. As soon as you get paid, deposit the amount you wish to save in a bank or other location for safekeeping. That will help you to fight any temptation to spend those funds.
Budget. This is the only practical way to monitor, control, or reduce your spending. A good budget can give you a sense of where your money goes, and it can help you to reach your financial goals. Know what your income is, and spend less than you earn. Learn the difference between needs and wants. Along these lines, Jesus wisely urged his listeners to “calculate the expense” before undertaking any project. (Luke 14:28) The Bible advises us to avoid unnecessary debt.
Plan. Carefully consider your future needs. For instance, if you plan to purchase a house or an apartment, obtaining a mortgage at a reasonable rate may be a good decision. Similarly, a family man may feel the need to purchase life, health, disability, or other forms of insurance to protect his loved ones. Considering your needs for the future may also involve planning for retirement. Proverbs 21:5 reminds us that “the plans of the diligent one surely make for advantage.”
Learn the difference between needs and wants
Learn. Invest in yourself by acquiring skills and taking care of your physical and emotional health. These are investments that will pay you back. Make learning a lifelong habit. The Bible puts a high value on “practical wisdom and thinking ability,” and it urges us to keep on developing them.
Balance. Keep money in its place. Survey after survey shows that those who care more about people than they do about money are happier. Some allow greed to throw them off balance. How so? After adequately satisfying their basic needs, they embark on the pursuit of riches. Yet, beyond food, clothing, and shelter, how much does a person really need? No wonder the Bible writer quoted at the beginning of this article also wrote: “Having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” (1 Timothy 6:8) Cultivating contentment prevents us from developing the love of money and all the problems that come along with it.
The love of money is indeed the root of many evil things. Money will become your master if you let it. When managed properly, however, money can provide you with the freedom to pursue the more important things in life, such as a close bond with family, friends, and God. Still, in this world it seems impossible to be totally free of money worries. Will money always be such a source of anxiety? What hope is there for an end to poverty? The concluding article in this series will answer those questions.
Beyond food, clothing, and shelter, how much does a person really need?