An approach we occasionally use in our marketing efforts is to ask this question: “What is the #1 financial mistake many Christians make?” Our answer: they ignore biblical principles when managing their money and follow secular advice instead.
Do you believe that? Do you believe that when you use God’s protective biblical principles as a guide, you will manage your money more wisely and prudently...and glorify God at the same time?
I do, because I’ve lived it! From the early 1970s through the mid-1980s, I relied primarily on my native skills and intellect for making financial and investing decisions. My successes were many, but my failures were more.
In the late 1980s, I faced up to my limitations, and turned to the teachings of my friend Larry Burkett who, since our meeting 15 years earlier, had become a leading voice in the evangelical community on the importance of Christians applying biblical principles to managing their finances.
Getting in sync with God’s ways rather than mine laid a foundation for future financial success. That experience more than a quarter-century ago influences the content we publish at SMI to this day.
Each week, as my team and I scan dozens of news articles and blog posts, we ask ourselves: Is this something our members should be aware of? Is this worth knowing? Should we tell you what the experts are saying about the economy and the markets, review how the stock, bond, and foreign markets have been behaving, or discuss which mutual funds have been the better performers? We do all these things to an extent, but within a larger context.
We see SMI as a discipling tool with a specialized focus that seeks to “prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature...” (Ephesians 4:12-13). This means we must all learn to set financial priorities that are honoring to God and point toward the attainment of God-given goals. That being the case, the things worth knowing — and the things emphasized in SMI — are, first and foremost, rooted in God’s Word.
- “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16, emphasis added both here and below). It’s worth knowing that we should look primarily to God’s wisdom, not the conventional wisdom, for principles to guide our decision-making. The principles God has given us are practical and relevant.
- “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). It’s worth knowing that we must each accept personal responsibility for making knowledgeable, biblically consistent financial decisions. We cannot look to others to make the tough choices for us.
- “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). It’s worth knowing that debt can be enslaving and that we should avoid it as much as possible.
- “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has” (Proverbs 21:20). It’s worth knowing that maintaining a proper balance between current spending and long-term saving is a sign of wisdom.
- “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5). It’s worth knowing that we should consistently invest from a carefully considered strategy rather than impulsively on a case by case basis.
- “Divide your portion to seven, or even to eight, for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth” (Ecclesiastes 11:2). It’s worth knowing that we should rely on diversification — rather than a preoccupation with market cycles — as a means of controlling risk and protecting our capital.
- “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint” (Proverbs 23:4). It’s worth knowing that we must be on guard against greed and spending our energies in a futile attempt to get the highest possible returns.
As we “renew our minds” with these guiding principles, we can apply them to help us make the day to day financial decisions we each face. If we follow them consistently, we can have confidence that, whatever the short-term sacrifices may be, we are making wise spending, saving, and investing choices. That frees us to leave the results with God, knowing that “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).