Your Identity: The Foundation of a Biblical View of Money
January 24, 2014
How do you handle money?
For example: Assume you’ve been renting a house, and are considering buying. How do you make that decision?
- How much should you spend?
- How much should you borrow?
- Is that decision affected by Scripture? Should it be?
We spend money every day, from seemingly trivial expenditures, like a morning cup from Starbucks, to the purchase of major items, like a house or a car; from services that are expensive– like a college education – to those that are not, like haircuts and tips.
We buy insurance on our health and our cars and our lives, and we pay deductibles and co-pays over and above the premiums.
We have little say about the one-fourth of our income on average that we pay in taxes (and, as we saw in a recent sermon, we should pay those taxes), but we make decisions all the time about the remainder:
- What do we buy?
- When do we splurge?
- How much do we save?
Again: Are those decisions affected by Scripture? Should they be?
Most of us would answer that question by saying, “Of course! The Bible speaks to all of life. Through Jesus, God saves us in this world of getting and spending. And He doesn’t take us out of it immediately. Instead, He transforms us into His likeness, so that we reflect His image. We are thus to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; we are to our neighbor as we love ourselves. Surely those commands have implications for how we spend money.”
But having acknowledged that truth, what are the implications?
- Do you buy the big house or the small one?
- Do you borrow to attend college or not?
- Do you buy the full breakfast or only a cup of coffee?
When we look to Scripture, we don’t easily see these questions answered. That is, we don’t see clear rules to use in governing our spending.
We long for such rules, because by nature we are legalists, we are Pharisees. We want to look at a list and check off all the items, so we can say, “I’m all right! I’ve done what I’m supposed to do.” Or, we want to look at a list, see where we fall short, and make our New Year’s resolutions: “This time I’ll do it right! I’ll do what God requires!”
We so long to establish our own righteousness. As we have seen time and again in our series on Matthew’s Gospel, that’s what the Pharisees did. They re-wrote the Old Testament Scriptures as a set of rules, and then congratulated themselves on fulfilling Scripture – while looking down their noses at everyone else, including Jesus, who did not live up to those rules. As Jesus said, our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees.
With regard to money, many Christians today think something like this:
“I’ve earned a certain amount of money; I’ve worked hard for it. It’s all I have to meet my own needs and desires, as well as my family’s needs and desires. It’s all we have to pay for education, for food, for housing, for transportation, for recreation, for taxes, for insurance. God wants some of it, and, sure, He deserves some.”
Then we tend to continue the thought process in one of two ways:
- “So I’ll spend what I need in these other areas, and give God what’s left.” Or,
- “So I’ll give a certain percentage of my income to God and His work, and budget the rest to meet our other needs.”
A number of Christian books on money management argue against number 1 as unbiblical, and commend number 2. But as we shall see in the weeks ahead: Both of those ways of deciding how much to give are unbiblical. For in both cases, God has nothing to do with the bulk of our expenditures. Neither rule is commended by Scripture.
No, God does not give us a set of rules regarding money or giving in Scriptures.
Instead, He gives us something much more valuable:
- He tells us who He is.
- He tells us who we are before Him.
- He tells us how to be reconciled to Him
- He promises that if we come to Him thru faith in Jesus, we are His children – and He will meet our every need.
- He promises furthermore that we are heirs of His Kingdom, joint heirs with Christ. We have an inheritance that will never spoil. It is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us (1 Peter 1:4).
That is: He gives us an identity. In addition, He gives us security – and tells us what security really means.
Furthermore, He gives us joy– and tells us how to find it, and how to distinguish between false joy and genuine joy.
Note that many people try to find these through money, through jobs, through investments and bank accounts. They think that money leads to happiness, that money leads to security, that my income and my job define who I am as a person.
Scripture argues strongly that those are lies, those are myths, those are falsehoods that enslave us.
So: If we are to manage money in biblical way, we need more than a set of rules.
- We need to know our identity
- We need to know what security is, and how to find it
- We need to know what joy is, and how to obtain it
Thus as we begin to delve in to Scripture’s teaching on money, we must start with identity, security, and joy. If instead we start by discussing how to make day to day decisions on budgeting, we’ll never understand the thrust of biblical teaching in this area.
Therefore, we’ll begin by looking at our identity in Christ.
What are signs that we struggle with money and identity?
- When unemployment or lack of promotion affects our self-image, leading to depression;
- Or, when employment or promotion is what motivates and drives you.
- When you go to a high school or college reunion, and are reluctant to talk about your work;
- Or, when you only want to talk about your work at a reunion.
- When you can’t imagine or don’t consider changing your work when you hear of the needs for missionaries to unreached peoples;
- Or when, upon hearing of those needs, you think you must change in order to make your life worthwhile.
- When others’ opinions about you depress you – or make your day.
- When you try to spend money in ways that will influence others to think well of you.
We must ground our identity in what God says about us. Consider these words of the Apostle Paul:
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:14-17)
In this brief section, Paul highlights three aspects of our identity, if we are saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ Jesus: We are adopted into God’s family; we are thus His beloved children; and we are heirs of God.
Adopted Into God’s Family
What are you apart from God? Lost. Condemned. By nature an object of God’s wrath.
Verse 15 tells us we have “received the Spirit of adoption as sons.” Imagine that you are a child in an orphanage, and God shows up. He will adopt some. Why does God choose you?
Scripture does not allow us to think that He chose us because we were the cutest, the strongest, or the ones with the most potential. No. Nothing distinguishes us; we, like all, deserve His punishment, not His grace and mercy. He loves us because He loves us (Deuteronomy 7:7-8).
Then having chosen you – does He make then establish solely a master/slave relationship with you? “Do this! Do that, or else! I saved you; now you owe me everything! So now I’ll use you and oppress you – but at least you’ll be alive.”
Is that way God treats us?
Note clearly: He could have done that – and it would have been a mercy! For we deserve death!
But instead: He adopts us. He brings us in to His family. He showers us with gifts we don’t deserve, gifts we can never deserve.
We’ve received that type of adoption.
God’s Beloved Children
So as verse 15 days, we cry out, “Abba! Father!” “Abba” was a familiar, intimate term for father – rather like “Daddy” in English. So Paul is saying, having been adopted, we cry out to God as His children, “Daddy! The One who loves me!”
As the Apostle John writes,
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (1 John 3:1)
Consider some implications of this image:
- LOVE – God, like a father, cares for us.
- INTIMACY – He treats us not just as a household servant – that would have been good enough! Nor does He treat us like a nephew or niece: loved, but outside the circle of his responsibility. Instead we are with Him, and will always be His, always be close to Him.
- WISDOM – Like an earthly father, He knows better than we do what is in our best interest.
- CARE and PROVISION – He gives us what we need to become what He intends. This is central to our understanding of money. What do earthly fathers do for children? Will not our heavenly Father do at least as much? (Matthew 7:11, Romans 8:32)
- SAFETY – He is our help and our shield, our protector.
- SUBMISSION – It is both right and logical for us to submit to Him – not motivated by fear of punishment, but confident in His love and wisdom.
Heirs of God and Joint Heirs with Christ
Verse 17 tells us that we are not only children, but heirs. Looking more broadly at Scripture, we find ourselves called:
- Heirs of the world
- Heirs of the kingdom
- Heirs of eternal life
- Heirs of the promises
- Heirs of salvation
We are God’s children. We enter into eternal life now. And there’s a sense in which we already have obtained an inheritance in Christ (Ephesians 1:11). But that inheritance in its fullness is yet to come:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. (1 Peter 1:3-4)
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Revelation 21:6-7, NIV)
All this is yours. This is your inheritance. By grace. Undeserved.
- Intimacy with God – forever.
- All that money can buy – and much that it cannot – in abundance.
- Love, care, purpose, fulfillment – all yours.
Imagine yourself, then, in these terms:
Adopted, saved from certain death, and given love, education, food, and clothing; given a purpose, a task, and instructions for how to fulfill it. Given a grant to be used for meeting your needs, for enjoyment, and for fulfilling the task.
Furthermore, you’re heir of a fortune – and your Daddy has promised: Whatever you need to complete the task, just ask.
In those circumstances: Given who you are, who your Daddy is, and what He has done for you: How will you use the grant?
If you are in Christ, you are a child of the King.
Live like that is true.
[This is taken from the sermon from 1/5/14]