I teach on financial stewardship on Thursday mornings at Charis Bible College in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Almost all of the students move from out of state to attend Charis. A lot of them leave behind careers and the security of good paying jobs. They also have to pay the cost of tuition, and being in school for several hours a day means that most of them have to take part-time jobs or get shift work. So the average student coming to school faces a decrease in salary, an increase in the cost of living, additional tuition costs, and part-time work to make ends meet. In the natural sense, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Without God’s intervention, those students would be in big trouble. But at the end of every year I ask the students how many of them are better off financially than they were when they came, and at least 80 percent always say they are better off. The reason they are able to prosper in spite of natural obstacles is that at Charis, they have received a revelation on the Scriptural truths related to finances.
This doesn’t work only for Bible college students. Anyone who applies the Scriptural principles I’m going to talk about can see financial prosperity begin to work in their lives—and I don’t mean just an increase in wealth. You can have a totally different attitude toward money. Instead of being dominated and controlled by money, you can begin to see that money is your servant. Money can become a tool you use in life, instead of a master that rules over you. Too many Christians are slaves to money. They work at jobs they don’t like and do things they don’t want to do just to make ends meet. God has a better way for us to live.
Not long ago, I was in Hong Kong teaching on grace. The people were really receiving what I was teaching, but I felt a nudging in my heart to teach on the subject of finances. I was a little hesitant to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading though because of the reputation American ministers have when it comes to teaching about money. I knew there could be some prejudice against me, so even though I really felt a quickening in my heart to teach on finances, I didn’t do it right away.
The conference went on for a few more days, and then the pastor of the church I was at took me out to lunch. Several of his leaders came with us and while we were waiting for the food to arrive, they started asking me questions. Nearly every question they asked was about finances. They wanted to know how to reconcile teaching on prosperity with God’s grace. Giving is often presented as something you do in order to make God bless you, and they wanted to know how finances fit into the true Gospel message: God blesses us because Christ made us righteous, not because of our performance.
After visiting with the pastor and his people, I knew for sure that God had been leading me to teach on finances. So during the conference the next day, I decided to change the focus of my preaching. As I stood in front of the people I asked, “What is the one thing you do not want to hear an American pastor preach about?”
People immediately began to shout, “prosperity,” “finances,” “giving and receiving.”
“Well, that is exactly what God has led me to teach on,” I said.
The room went completely silent; you could’ve heard a pin drop. I pressed on anyway and taught prosperity from a grace perspective. In the end, they loved it. As a matter of fact, the pastor emailed me after the conference to say that his staff was still getting responses. It helped his people tremendously, which shows that sometimes the things you least want to hear about will help you the most. You may feel about a financial message just like those people did initially, but I believe that this book will help you to better understand finances in the same way this teaching helped them.
The very first thing we need to understand about finances is that we are stewards of what God has given us. Jesus taught on stewardship in the parable in which He told about the shrewd manager.
In Luke 16:1, Jesus told His disciples, “There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.” This is an important parable that I will teach on in depth later, but for now I just want to point out the function and attitude of being a steward. A steward is a person who manages someone else’s property, finances, or other affairs. As Christians, we are stewards, and we need to recognize that the money we have is not really ours; it’s a gift from God.
Now, you may be thinking, I can guarantee you God didn’t give me the money I have! I’ve worked hard for it. I’ve earned it. Maybe you work two jobs, or you have scrimped for years to get a little savings, and so the money you have accumulated seems like the result of your own efforts. I understand that way of thinking, but, in reality, it isn’t true.
Every good and perfect gift comes from God. (James 1:17.) Ultimately, God is the source of everything you have. First of all, God gave you life. You didn’t cause yourself to exist—you were created. God made you and He is the source of every good thing in your life. (Genesis 1:26; James 1:17.)
The apostle Paul wrote, “In him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). God not only gave you physical life, but He is the source of your wisdom and abilities. He gave you the talents you use to earn a living. God is also the reason you were born at this time in history—the most prosperous period ever. So even though you are working hard at your job, God is still the source of your financial success. Without the blessing of God upon your life, you wouldn’t even have the ability to prosper.
You may be out in the world actually doing the work you get paid for, but you need to develop the mindset that the money you receive doesn’t belong to you; it belongs to God. Remember, God gave you your talents and abilities, and every good thing you have is a blessing from Him. God has entrusted you with all of your finances, and it is important to develop the mindset of being a steward—over God’s money, not yours.
Most people see making a living as resulting from the sweat of their brow, and they don’t see God as their source. They separate their lives into spiritual matters like heaven and hell, and private, personal matters like career and finances. When it comes to money, they think it’s all up to them. As a result, many Christians are struggling financially. God wants to be the source of everything in your life. The Lord never intended you to carry the burden of financial responsibility, and He wants to lift that burden from you.
A lot of Christians say they know God is the source of everything, but their lives don’t reflect an understanding of that truth. I was in a meeting one time when the man receiving the offering told everyone to reach into the back pocket or the purse of the person in front of them and “give like you’ve always wanted to give.” Of course, no one actually did it. The point he was making is that we are much more likely to be generous with someone else’s money. You would probably take more money from your neighbor’s wallet to put in the offering than you would from your own.
When you think that money comes by your own sweat and tears, then you keep a much tighter hold on it. You become attached to your money, and it actually becomes your master. But when you see yourself as a steward and recognize money as God’s blessing—even though you work for your paychecks—it totally changes the role money plays in your life. It ceases to control you and simply becomes a tool. This simple change in mindset from owner to steward will make a tremendous difference for you.
Many Christians have made a firm commitment of their lives to the Lord concerning spiritual things, but when it comes to finances, they see money as a private possession. The pressures of life lead them to view money as something they must control, and that kind of ownership mentality leads to a lot of problems.
The first step toward becoming responsible with your finances is to get this mindset that money does not belong to you. Instead of clinging to your money, you need to think: I am a steward of what God has entrusted to me. God has blessed me with these talents and abilities. God has blessed me with my job. God has put me into a prosperous nation at the most prosperous time in all of history. God is blessing me, and God has given me all of the resources I have. It is not up to me to run my finances the way I want to. I’m a steward.
People with an ownership mentality end up trying to do everything themselves, but stewards freely receive God’s blessing. Look at how blessed Abraham was.
Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
God said here that He would bless Abraham, and that He would make Abraham’s name great. When you read the entire story of Abraham, you see that God wasn’t talking about intangible spiritual benefits. He was talking about physical earthly blessings. Abraham didn’t become rich through his own hard work. He became wealthy because the blessing of God was on his life. (Hebrews 6:13–14.) Abraham was blessed in everything he did. Even when he made mistakes, God blessed him.
During a famine in Canaan, Abraham traveled down into Egypt with his wife, Sarah. She was 60-something years old at the time, but she was so beautiful that Abraham was afraid Pharaoh would kill him in order to take her from him. So Abraham lied and told Pharaoh that Sarah was his sister, and not his wife! It was absolutely the wrong thing to do, and he put his wife in a terrible situation. Abraham was willing to sacrifice Sarah just to save his own neck. God had to intervene by sending plagues upon Pharaoh’s house in order to get Sarah restored to Abraham. (Genesis 12.)
Not even thirty years later, Abraham did the exact same thing again! He told Abimelech, king of Gerar, that Sarah was his sister. This time, God came to Abimelech in a dream and told him to restore Sarah or he would die. When Abimelech saw that God was with Abraham, he returned Sarah and gave Abraham gold, silver, cattle, sheep, and servants. Then he told Abraham that he could live anywhere in the kingdom he desired. Abraham was in the wrong in both situations, but the blessing of God never stopped causing Abraham to prosper. (Genesis 20.)
Abraham was not wealthy because of his shrewd business sense or because God rewarded his great integrity. Abraham was prosperous because God promised to bless him and make his name great. The blessing was independent of Abraham’s performance or what he deserved. It was purely the favor of God that made him rich. In the same way, your efforts are not the source of prosperity in your life.
The blessing of God made Abraham so rich that he and his nephew, Lot, couldn’t dwell together because their flocks and herds were too big. They had so many animals that one location couldn’t feed them all, so their servants began fighting with one another over the grazing land, and they were forced to separate. Abraham’s conversation with Lot about this situation is revealing.
Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left. And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where…. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.
Abraham took Lot up to a hilltop so they could look out over the whole land. One part of the land was a well-watered plain plush with grass; the other part was dry. Keep in mind that the survival of their herds depended on there being plenty of natural grass to graze on. They couldn’t go to a feed store and buy food for their flocks and cattle. Fields of grass were the only source of food they had. So it isn’t surprising that Lot chose the well-watered land for himself.
This story reveals how confident Abraham was in God as his source. Anyone who was relying on natural circumstances and his own efforts for prosperity would never give up a well-watered plain for his animals. Looking at the natural facts, the decision whether to choose a grassy plain or the desert was a no-brainer. But Abraham knew God was his source, no matter what things looked like to the naked eye. Abraham was saying, “It doesn’t matter where I go, the Lord is going to bless me.” Right after Abraham allowed Lot to take the better land, God appeared to him and promised even more prosperity than Abraham had already experienced.
The Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.
In the natural, it is impossible for a man who grazes his flocks and herds in the desert to prosper as much as a man whose cattle graze in lush pastures, but nothing is impossible for God. (Luke 1:37.) The blessing of God made Abraham rich, and he prospered much more than Lot did.
Not long after Lot and Abraham separated, foreign kings raided the city of Sodom, where Lot lived, and took everyone captive. When Abraham heard that his nephew had been seized, he armed his servants that were trained for war and pursued the foreign kings. His party consisted of 318 men, which gives you an idea of how many servants he had. (Genesis 14:14.) Abraham’s men defeated the foreign kings and brought back all of the spoil and the people who had been taken captive.
The king of Sodom was grateful, so he offered to let Abraham keep the spoil: “The king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself” (Genesis 14:21). The king recognized that if it hadn’t been for Abraham, his entire kingdom would have been lost. We don’t know how much spoil the king was offering Abraham, but it isn’t unreasonable to think it would have been the equivalent of millions of dollars today. Abraham had recovered all the goods, food, and valuables of five cities, so the spoil was certainly worth a lot of money. But Abraham didn’t accept the king’s offer.
Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.
Abraham refused to take any money from the king because he didn’t want anyone to have a reason to claim they had made him rich. Abraham knew he was rich because of the blessing of God. His confidence in God as the source of his wealth was so strong that he gave away millions of dollars worth of spoil, which he had rightfully earned by conquest. Abraham had a lot of possessions and many people working for him, but he saw himself as a recipient of God’s blessing—not as someone who was earning wealth through his own efforts.
The foundation for Abraham’s confidence goes back to when God appeared to him and said, “I will bless you, and I will make your name great.” I’m sure Abraham put effort into maintaining his flocks and herds, and he had hundreds of servants helping him, but he still saw God as his source. He trusted in God, and because of that, God prospered him supernaturally. This same attitude is necessary for any Christian to really begin to walk in the financial prosperity God desires for us.
We need to see God as our source and develop the attitude that the resources we have are a gift from God. Yes, you may have worked 40 or 60 hours a week at your job, but God is the source! God gave you life, health, and abilities, and God is the One who opens doors of opportunity. God is our source, and just like Abraham, we need to recognize that the money we have belongs to God.
After Abraham boldly declared that God was his source and gave away a fortune rather than give the king any basis for saying he made Abraham rich, the Lord appeared to Abraham in a vision and said, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1). This statement had spiritual meaning, but it also had financial significance. Abraham gave away millions to preserve God as his sole source, but God gave back to Abraham even more financial increase. Abraham received from God an equivalent of all that bounty plus interest.
Until you recognize God as your source, nothing else the Bible says about finances is going to work. As long as you are holding onto your money with a clenched fist and hoarding possessions, God’s method of prosperity won’t work in your life. You have to change your mindset and recognize that God is the source of everything you own, seeing yourself as a steward managing the financial blessings that God has given you.
God is the source of your resources just as surely as He was Abraham’s source. The difference is that Abraham knew God was his source, and his trust in God caused him to prosper. One of the reasons we don’t see greater prosperity in our lives is that we haven’t learned the lesson of being a steward. We see everything we own as being the result of our own sweat and tears and because of that, we have a stingy, selfish attitude toward money. The first step toward walking in financial prosperity is to recognize that you are not the source of your financial blessing.
Seeing God as your source doesn’t mean you sit at home and do nothing. You are supposed to work, but you need to recognize that even though you work, it is God who gives the increase. (1 Corinthians 3:7.) A farmer has to prepare the soil and plant seeds in order to get a crop, but God created the natural laws that govern sowing and reaping, God sends the rain and sun that make plants grow, God gave the land to farm on, and God is the source of the farmer’s health. Likewise, it is the blessing of God that makes it possible for you to prosper, and the foundation of prosperity is seeing yourself as a steward.