I am concerned that many people using the language of “stewardship” today seem to be, in reality, operating out of greed. They mask their greed with a facade of spirituality.
In case I just shocked you by that statement, you should know that I do believe that the Bible has much to say about how we should handle our money, and I do believe there is great value in studying Biblical principles with respect to money. I have personally benefited from the widely popular and intensely practical teaching of Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace University .
Many other organizations and speakers also provide the service of educating people to manage their finances more wisely and motivating them to do so. In our time of financial instability many people are eager to learn how they can make their dollars go further.
While I am all for earning a decent income, budgeting, saving and investing wisely as a “good steward”, I have a growing concern that some of those who have adopted the language of “stewardship” are in fact motivated and motivating others by greed.
Recently at an educational seminar that I attended targeting business people I heard many speakers invoke God in some way and try to give credit to the Bible for their teaching on personal finance. They talked about their involvement in charity work, and their desire to help people. Yet one speaker flaunted pictures of his 40,000 square foot house, and another used pictures of luxury cars and speed boats to motivate people toward setting financial goals and achievement of those goals. In the end their teaching and references to God felt hollow, and self-serving.
In the prosperous West there seems to be so much confusion about the Biblical view of money among those who even care about following a Biblical view. Some seem to think money itself is evil, instead of “the love of money“, while others appear to make success and wealth an identifying mark of genuine Christian faith.
Both views are unbiblical. (For a fully developed theology of possessions see Craig Blomberg’s Neither Poverty Nor Riches.)
Though it’s certainly not my place to draw fine lines for others about exactly “how much is too much”, I do think all Christians should be much more discerning and on guard against the sin of greed. Jesus emphatically warned us to “Watch out! Be on guard against all forms of greed.” (Luke 12:15)
Paul lists greed right along with sexual immorality as things the faithful Christian should avoid. In the New Testament epistles Paul makes reference to the evils of greed eight times and Peter mentions it three times! In Ephesians 5:3 Paul says, “among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” In my experience, I’ve heard this passage quoted many times as a warning against impurity and immorality, but I very rarely as a warning against greed!
Paul says that “some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith”! (I Timothy 6:10) I fear that in our day, many unaware believers are being led astray in their eagerness to be rich. In doing so they begin serving a master other than Jesus. Instead of making much of Jesus, such behavior reveals to those around us what god we really serve.
In the end we should search our hearts as Christians, confess any secret sin of greed, and ask God to help us use the resources he entrusted to us in a way that most honors Him. May we say with Paul, “godliness with contentment is great gain”, and really mean it from the heart.