According to Scripture, true wealth is a tool to advance the Kingdom of God created by our hard work and good stewardship, not only for our own benefit, but to help others (I Corinthians 10:24). But knowing what true wealth is and understanding it are two very different things.
Did you know that the Bible has more verses that discuss money than discuss salvation? I've counted more than 783 direct biblical references to money, yet few economists can define it properly.
* True wealth is more than money and things, although money and things are required to advance the Kingdom.
* True wealth is based on a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ, without whom we are deceived in thinking ourselves wealthy.
* True wealth is also denominated in our earthly relationships, such as our family, friends and church community.
* True wealth is characterized by servanthood.
* True wealth is reserved for the righteous (Proverbs 13:22) both now and in eternity.
The truth seems clear enough, so where does the confusion enter about wealth and stewardship? First, Christians are admonished to stop comparing eternal wealth to the world system's temporal wealth, which is very often empty and deceptive. And second, some Christians still have the mistaken notion that work is a curse, which is not taught in the Bible.
Economics can be likened to a window into our soul. If that window is dark or cloudy, it is difficult for the light of God to shine in on the subject. God wants to wash our minds with His Word on many subjects ^^ including economics.
My interest in money began with childhood coin collecting. In 1963, I heard that U.S. coinage was going to change the following year, so I decided to buy all of the older coins I could afford. I had no idea that our money was soon to be transformed from a value-based currency to a debt-based currency. Somehow I intuitively knew that gold and silver coins would always have a special value to someone.
Little did I know that in 20 years that hobby would become my business. In 1982, I began my walk with the Lord and founded Swiss America. My goal was to take the knowledge I acquired about gold and silver coins and couple it with my passion to serve God.
During 1988, I accelerated the process of understanding Christian economic principles by interviewing top Christian money experts on World Economic Perspective, a national daily radio broadcast. I interviewed men such as Dr. John Avanzini, Dr. Ed Cole, R.E. McMaster Jr., Larry Burkett, Mark Skousen, Dennis Peacocke and scores of others. As I progressed, I was struck by the unanimous consensus that our present money system was based on a deceptive debt standard. In the words of McMaster, "We have an occult money system, no doubt about it."
Christians today are engaged in an accelerating battle between godly and ungodly economic worldviews. Biblical economics and money are always based on substance, while the world system is based on symbolism. Therefore, if we are to win the war for true money, we must learn from history.
Beginning in Genesis (13:2) the scripture associates the blessing of wealth given by God to Abraham as consisting of four primary substances: gold, silver, land and livestock.
True wealth must have four basic characteristics: it must be scarce, portable, divisible and maintain a store of value over time. Gold, silver and other tangible assets have been the money of choice for centuries because they fulfill these four essentials.
From the beginning of recorded history, men have perverted true money and sought to counterfeit it with everything from clay tablets (dating back to Babylon) to modern credit/debt systems used on computers today. In fact, our modern credit/debt system originated in 5000 B.C. when Babylonian bankers loaned credit (which they "created" from thin air) and then charged interest (usury) on top of it.
Notice that symbolic money (credit and debt) are intangibles and can be easily manipulated by the powerful to enrich themselves at others' expense. Our modern banking system is patterned after the Babylonians and based on the premise that God's laws of wealth are not true. Therefore, modern banking principles have usurped God's system and created a credit system using nothing but money substitutes. Sadly, most of us have given our consent to the credit system without understanding the consequences.
Debt is enslaving and consuming modern American culture. It should not surprise us to learn the root meaning of the word debt is "death." The Bible teaches that no debt should extend beyond seven years, yet gradually over the last 60 years, banks have extended mortgage loans from seven to 10, to 15, to 20 and now 30 years ^^ to the lender's financial benefit.
Today's government, corporate and personal debt is a growing threat to our children. Debt has become the legalized drug of the last generation ^^ after being shunned for the previous 10 generations in America. There are many reasons for the explosion of debt and credit, but the gospel solution is still the same: "Owe no man anything except to love him." So, how can we learn to overcome the temptation to borrow?
1. Study and obey God's rules on tithing, offerings and debt.
2. Prioritize expenses. Include both a tithe to your local church or nurturing ministry, and give yourself a 10 percent savings cushion for emergencies. If you don't have enough money to pay your bills, you have two choices: earn more or spend less. This may mean reducing your lifestyle to fit your pocketbook.
3. Establish a money-management system that works for you and begin training your children in these principles before they fall into the credit trap.
According to Barna Research, less than 20 percent of Christians tithe, which means 80 percent of Christians merely tip God occasionally. Why do some Christians faithfully pay their tithe and give offerings and others feel no guilt in disregarding the tithe?
I've done a lot of thinking and praying about this problem and my conclusion is that people who tithe are more interested in laying a solid foundation for the next generation than people who don't tithe. In fact, many Christians may never tithe because their level of faith, understanding or obedience is stunted. Other Christians may have tried tithing for a while, but quit when they did not experience a financial blessing in the short-term.
The tithe is not something that Christians "give" to God ^^ it is paid, similar to paying taxes. You don't give the IRS your taxes each year, you pay them ... or else.
But within the Kingdom of God we are never coerced to do anything, including supporting the local church. However, we are admonished in the Old and the New Testaments that a tithe belongs to God, and if we keep it we are robbing His Kingdom of the resources to get the job done in the future.
I have not always been a tither. About 15 years ago I was confronted with the truth about tithing from my pastor. He challenged me to become a faithful tither of both my personal income and the income of my business. Yes, I have stumbled a few times along the road, but I stand as a witness that God is faithful to those who obey Him.
Malachi 3:10 teaches us that the real purpose of tithing is to demonstrate our obedience to God and our love for our children. When we tithe and give offerings, at least two things happen ^^ one on earth and one in heaven: 1) provision (meat) goes into the House of God in preparation for the expansion of God's Kingdom on earth, and 2) heaven's windows are opened over our life. According to Luke 6:38, we can affect the measure of blessing that God pours out to us by the measure that we freely give offerings. I have personally chosen to give with a large shovel. Some are giving by the cup, others by the teaspoon. It's your choice.
Therefore, as a first step of recovering a biblical view of economics, we must be accountable to the truth that we presently understand. Tithing as well as giving generous offerings is the foundation to restoring true wealth into the hands of the righteous.
According to a growing number of leaders, the world system is on a collision course with biblical Christianity. This places Christian leaders as the watchmen, discerning the times responsible for applying the Bible to all areas of life and leading the flock by example.
For the sake of the next generation, let us establish a biblical foundation of economic truth and then take this dynamic message into the marketplace for all to benefit. This requires Christians who can separate fact from fiction on the topic of money, based on God's Word. I am dedicating this next decade to that goal and established a Web site (www.true-wealth.com) that helps people separate true wealth from counterfeit. Will you join me?