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 (Manna 60: Money)
The Role of Money in Christian Living
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The Role of Money in Christian Living

Vincent Yeung—Cambridge, UK


My first taste of business class travel was a gratifying experience that illustrated the comfort and privilege that money can bring. It allowed me to bypass the check-in, security, and boarding queues and avoid the annoying mass that congregated at the waiting lounge.

I was showered with endless supplies of champagne and fresh juice. For the first time, I could sleep flat on the plane without the need to fight for a few millimeters of space with my fellow passengers. The cabin crew even called me by my name, and I was no longer labeled as passenger 40A!

However, luxury comes with a cost—it is expensive to keep up with this opulent lifestyle. Morally, it is hardly justifiable to spend ten times the cost of an economy class ticket to fly business. An average person in the bottom billion is living on less than $1 a day.1 It is obscene to spend 10,000 times that on a plane ticket.

Psychologically, this experience raised my aspirations and expectations, which made it difficult to “trade down” to a pedestrian lifestyle. It is human instinct to avoid harm and pursue advancement and a comfortable life.

As the majority of the population is now involved in the production of services and goods that enhance human comfort and living conditions, we are devoting more of our time to entertainment and enjoyment.

Christians often hold an ambivalent view on money, the accumulation of wealth, and its uses. But Jesus’ warning on the risks of excessive riches should sound the alarm bell in many believers’ minds.2

It is difficult to define what is acceptable and unacceptable. My example of business travel can’t even compare to hiring private jets. To complicate the matter, our lifestyles are often funded by debt. Instead of saving for a holiday, a car, or a house, we borrow money to gratify ourselves now and pay for it later.

How do we strike a balance between prudent accumulation and use of money without having to lead an ascetic and frugal lifestyle?

Money: our servant OR MASTER?

The financial system is vital to the functioning of a modern society, and money is central to it. We no longer live in a society that trades on goods we produce in exchange for other goods and services. Money is a necessity in life.

However, for some, mammon has become a god and an object of love.3 They love the comfort, privilege, and power that money can bring.4

The advances in mass multimedia are feeding a celebrity cult that has grown outside the circle of movie stars and singers to include athletes, celebrity chefs, and lifestyle gurus. Their lives are chronicled through photographs and blogs on the Internet and on reality shows and the news.

People are startled and yet mesmerized by their wealth, appearance, fame, and lavish lifestyle. They start to desire the same luxuries and privileges. However, they often resort to borrowing and speculation to pay for a better life.

Money is not inherently evil; there is nothing wrong with lending or borrowing money, although strict rules concerning both were applied in Moses’ time.5 We are encouraged to work, build property, and save for rainy days.6

Enjoyment is not a prohibition either. As it says in Ecclesiastes 3:13, “every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.”

Money is a tool, a means to an end, but it must neither be our master, nor should we serve it.

Biblical perspective

Do not Love Money

Our attitude towards money and the application of it are dictated by our relationship with God. God demands our unflagging devotion to Him, which is enshrined and subsumed in the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex 20:3). Yet love toward money has usurped God’s place in many people’s hearts.

What is prohibited is the love of money and our services to it:

            “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Mt 6:24)

The love and desire to accumulate more money is a gateway to all kind of evils.7 Love and desire become a “lust,” an act of reaching out frantically to acquire wealth. In the search for money, morality is set aside and errant and sinful behavior ensues.8 The milk contamination scandal in China and Madoff’s Ponzi scheme are just two examples of what can happen when people have lost sight of their moral values.

A total devotion to money can make a person rich for himself but cannot make him rich toward God.9 Those who serve money are warned against over-reliance on uncertain riches.10 The rich fools are satisfied with the wealth that they have gathered, believing that they can fall back on it in hard times. This false sense of security turns their attention away from God.11

In the wrong hands, money becomes unrighteous.12 Money pampers the rich with comfort and power; their wealth leads them to believe they are different, exquisite, and out of this world. Exclusivity and uniqueness are the selling points of many services and products.

Money and power are intertwined: money buys influence, influence confers privilege and connections, which in turn generates money for the wealthy.

The prophets vociferously warned against reliance on wealth, power, and alliances instead of trusting in the living God.13

A Healthy View Toward Money

In Proverbs 30:8, 9, Agur declares,

            Give me neither poverty nor riches—
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, “Who is the LORD?”
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God.

Excessive wealth can corrupt, but the lack of money is equally harmful. Our overwhelming need to quench our daily hunger can become a distraction that hinders us from honoring God or behaving morally.14 Many crimes are driven by desperation and poverty.

There is nothing wrong with accumulating wealth. The ants are commended for storing food during good times.15 Abraham, Isaac, and Job were blessed with material blessings,16 but their great possessions did not hinder their relationship with God. Their wealth did not appear out of the blue; it was accumulated through a combination of God’s blessing, hard work, and sensible management.

Jesus did not condemn the rich because of their material wealth. It was their attitude towards wealth that hindered the rich from entering into the heavenly kingdom.

Money can open many doors and avenues as well as expose us to temptations and snares.17 The power that riches bring blinds people to their social responsibilities.18 It is not their enjoyment of riches but rather their selfishness and insensitivity toward suffering that is condemned.19

The well-off are entrusted with God’s blessing and should act faithfully and responsibly while maintaining their relationship with Him.20 They are in an influential and powerful position to do mercy and justice.

Make Good Use of God’s Blessings

The Bible never advocates suffering for suffering’s sake, and indulgence and pleasure-seeking are likewise discouraged.21 Lifestyles that are driven by pleasure-seeking, self-indulgence, showing off, and the lack of self-control should be a warning for us.22

We need to always act modestly, doing our part to contribute to the well-being of society. When we devote sufficient time to God and His ministry, we can enjoy our possessions and the fruit of our work. Even if we are not rich, we have been blessed by God to live comfortably and so should act sensibly and consider the impact of our actions.

We need to consider how to make good use of the material wealth God has given us.23 Before we spend we need to ask ourselves: Am I setting a good example for others to follow? Will my purchase arouse envy and strife, inadvertently causing more harm than good? Am I spending money on top brands, products, or services that are not necessary, too complex to understand, and even extravagant?

We should not drive expensive gas-guzzling cars that pollute the environment even if we could easily afford it. We should not be wasteful, changing our wardrobe every year, or buying too much food and subsequently throwing some of it away uneaten.

If we have decided to spend top money on a luxury cabin on a cruise holiday, perhaps we can consider trading down. We know that it only costs a few thousand US dollars to build a church in Africa—why not put our money to good use?

Our small sacrifice in booking a cheaper cabin and offering the difference will bring a lot of joy to many, and it is a way to fulfill God’s grace and love24 that is pleasing to both God and man.25

Cornelius’ devotion and kindness26 appeared to be a contributing factor in his election as a child of God. King David accumulated vast amounts of wealth in his lifetime and put them to good use by offering them for the construction of the temple. His offerings moved his officials to act likewise.27 The apostolic church is the quintessence of true religion28 and manifestation of God’s love.29

However life unfolds before us, we should be satisfied with what we have30 and be thankful to God however little or much we possess.


Jesus led an exemplary lifestyle: He ate and drank in public31 and dined with the rich and powerful,32 yet He was ready to sleep rough33 and fast and pray in the desert and mountains.

Similarly, Paul was no stranger to the hospitality of wealthy believers,34 but he was equally at home in prison.35 No wonder he could say, “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound,” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:12, 13).

Trade up or down, exaltation or humiliation, they are only transient affairs in our worldly lives,36 merely the concerns of the world.37 In my travels I have seen the dazzling height of human excess as well as the dejected poverty of the bottom billion. I feel content in a top-notch hotel in the financial center of Beijing and I am equally happy to lie on the carpet floors of churches in the UK or the hard floorboards of churches in Asia.

We should make the most of what life offers. I will lie down and sleep well on my flat seat on the plane, knowing that it is only second best to my usual bed and that the next time it could be a hard surface somewhere in the world.


1.        http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/7905174.stm

2.        Mk 10:25

3.        Lk 16:13

4.        Prov 22:7

5.        Ex 22:25

6.        Prov 24:27, 30:25

7.        1 Tim 6:10

8.        Hos 12:8

9.        Lk 12:21

10.     1 Tim 6:17

11.     Isa 47:8

12.     Lk 16:11

13.     Jer 2:36, 37; Hos 14:3; Isa 30:1, 2

14.     2 Kgs 6:25-28

15.     Prov 30:25

16.     Gen 13:6, Gen 26:16, Job 1:3

17.     1 Tim 6:9

18.     Prov 22:7

19.     Amos 6:6

20.     Lk 16:11

21.     Gal 5:13

22.     2 Tim 3:1-5

23.     Lk 16:8-31

24.     2 Cor 8:8, 9

25.     Phil 4:17

26.     Acts 10:2

27.     1 Chr 29:1-7

28.     Act 2:44, 45; Jas 1:27

29.     1 Jn 3:16-18

30.     1 Tim 6:6

31.     Mt 11:19

32.     Lk 7:36, 19:5

33.     Lk 9:58

34.     Acts 16:14, 15

35.     Acts 16:25

36.     Jas 1:9, 10

37.     Mt 6:25-34

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Author: Vincent Yeung