Explore: Exercise financial responsibility

• The Explore the Bible lesson for April 6 focuses on Proverbs 16:16; 22:1-2; 23:4-5; 28:20; 30:7-9; 13:11; 15:27; 20:17; 21:6; 22:16; 28:6,8,24; 3:9-10; 11:28; and 16:8.

It is a wise thing to make time to evaluate our physical health by having an annual physical. It also is wise to evaluate our financial health occasionally. A full financial evaluation doesn’t just involve studying our personal balance sheet or portfolio. It also involves an occasional evaluation of our attitudes toward money.

George Lorimer once said, “It's good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it's good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure you haven't lost the things money can't buy.” These passages from the book of Proverbs serve as an invaluable tool in that evaluation.

The writer starts us off with a thought we presume to take for granted: “How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver” (Proverbs 16:6). However, just because we might intellectually agree with his sentiment, does the way we live our lives, earn and spend our money give evidence we’ve made this biblical teaching a core spiritual value?

Christian stewardship

The cornerstone of Christian stewardship is this basic biblical teaching: “Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all” (Proverbs 22:2). It is impossible to live in right relationship to material gain without a constant acknowledgement of God as Creator and Sustainer.

Our money is not our money. Everything we think we own is on loan to us from the God who made it. We never are more likely to abuse material things or squander our lives in gaining them than when we forget who owns what.

As a hospice chaplain, I often find myself in nursing homes visiting with patients. I get sobering reminders on a daily basis of how foolish it is to live my life collecting things. Even the wealthiest often end up in a small room with only a few material things to show for all their years of hard work. It’s a good thing to “cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle” (Proverbs 23:5).

In our culture—brimming with wealth as never before—it takes a disciplined soul to make certain our relationship with money is guided by a commitment to Christ and the principles Christ taught us. It is more than easy to get caught up in keeping up with everyone else, even to the point that we’ll be willing to cut ethical corners if that’s what it takes to get what we think we need or want.

We all know people who have become wealthy at the expense of others. What good is a pile of wealth if we’re sitting atop it alone because of all the relationships we sacrificed to get there? “The greedy bring ruin to their households, but the one who hates bribes will live” (Proverbs 15:27).

Relationships to stay accountable

We need more than a CPA or a financial planner to help us stay in legal line. We also need close friendships and a faith community that helps us stay spiritually accountable by reminding us not everything legal is moral. There is no such thing as amoral financial management.

If Christ is Lord of all we are, the way we treat people, use our time and manage our financial resources will bear witness to that. Our relationships, our calendars and our checkbooks give greater evidence of our true character than anything we might claim to be true.

If Christ is Lord of all we are, then the way Christ used his resources on earth will serve as our prime model for how we use ours. The Apostle Paul established this principle as foundational to Christian thinking when he wrote we are to have “the same mindset as Christ Jesus” when we think about how to use our power and resources (Philippians 2:5-11).

The recent death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman is a tragic reminder that the fame and fortune many people blindly seek never brings spiritual satisfaction. Sitting atop a pile of money and fame, he apparently found himself locked in life of lonely isolation and sadly needing to escape from what too many presume would bring them joy.

We are warned of something we all eventually learn, Christian or not: “Food gained by fraud tastes sweet, but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel” (Proverbs 20:17). On the other side of a major purchase we either didn’t need or that was beyond our means, we often find ourselves tasting that gravel of dissatisfaction.

We should give thanks to God that life is full of reminders built into our way through this life. The last place we want to taste that gravel is on our deathbed. To commit ourselves to serving Christ as Lord in the way we earn our money and also use it to empower others who are in need is the first step toward true Christian stewardship.

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