Updated: Feb 25, 2021
It’s hard to look back over my first thirty years and find anyone teaching me solid, Biblical lessons about money.
My dad did encourage me to save for a rainy day but never enforced it through consequences. We were middle-class, but constantly afraid of running out. We moved a lot; he was frequently between jobs - good-paying, executive-level ones. We were not a Christian household.
Public schools taught me nothing, in the days when I would have paid attention. I took an economics class my senior year in high school … mostly because I had to. I was far too disinterested by that time and did not get along with the teacher.
My first two decades in the workforce were a hodgepodge. I could interview well, and make good first impressions. After a while, however, my true colors of pride, selfishness, greed and laziness would show. In my early twenties, I hopped from one job to another.
I needed a job from which I could neither get fired, nor easily resign - so I joined the US military. They had briefings and classes you could take for financial readiness. But by then, the best things they could tell me were things I already knew - “Don’t spend more than you earn.”
My integration into the Kingdom of God also proved financially … mediocre. Though my wife and I married debt-free (and remain so to this day), and though we are two-time graduates of Financial Peace University … I still couldn’t manage to raise my personal income above the federal poverty level.
The clock kept ticking, until shortly after reaching the age of 38, I got fired from my job selling insurance in Olympia, Washington, where we live.
I made the decision - it was “now or never” to attempt something I’d always feared - becoming an entrepreneur. I went at it … and for the first 17 months, I didn’t earn anything.
If it sounds painful … it was. I found myself, as late as December 2019, wondering the same things I wondered in the same end months of 2009 and 1999 … “How am I ever going to earn more than the bare minimum?”
But by 2019, there was one key differential - I not only knew what Yeshua (Jesus) said about worldly wealth … I also knew what He meant.
Why Money Matters to God
Six years in the insurance business taught me a key lesson: Nobody wanted to talk about insurance.
It forced me to learn to sell a different product - myself. I learned, experientially, that the simplest way to get someone to “buy into” doing business with me was to be generous up front. To give, without any thought of return. In my book, Influencer Networking Secrets, I call this “Be A Magnet, Not a Pusher.”
It didn’t occur to me, because of Christianity’s awkward, mixed attitudes toward wealth, that Yeshua could possibly want His disciples to be wealthy.
But when I looked closer, I found Him saying something that dovetailed so deeply with how I’d learned to do business, that I could no longer accept the church’s “monetary neutrality.”
“I tell you,” He said in Luke 16:9,
“use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
Now why would a Great King who abhors wealth tell His subjects to busy themselves acquiring and using it, for the strict purpose of ensuring they’re welcomed into His eternal rest? Why, if He prefers His people to live in poverty and squalor, would He give such a command?
Why not say, “I tell you, avoid worldly wealth at all costs. Stayest thou broke, that thou mayest feel pathetic and needy all thy days ... and then enter, exhausted and embittered, seething with resentment at My indifference to your plight, into My eternal rest”?
Seriously now … our Great King sits on His throne, roaring with mocking laughter at His subjects, reveling in their shame and dependency on handouts?!
Would you take more pleasure in watching your son or daughter succeed and prosper? Or is it infinitely preferable that they struggle, and live in shame?
But God also knows - we will idolize our wealth, prestige and position. So He warns us in Ezekiel 14:4-5,
“Whenever any of My people comes to inquire of me, and sets up an idol in their heart, I Myself will answer, in keeping with their great idolatry.”
Did you catch the underlined part? It means He will answer you the same way an idol would: blank stares, silent lips, lifeless, completely impotent.
This is why stewardship has such enduring legacy in Christendom; we must be unattached to wealth, if we are to wield it for the Kingdom. That’s not a “switch” you just flip … it can take many seasons to mature beyond trusting in money.
How To Walk Away From The Idol of Money
Because I’d learned to give generously up front, in order to build relationships with clients and referral partners, I came to understand what Yeshua meant.
He was speaking of the Giver’s Gain, that timeless principle He elucidates elsewhere in Mark 4:25, that
“Generosity begets generosity, but stinginess impoverishes.”
So, as I reached the exciting conclusion of my “desert season” as an entrepreneur … I never stopped giving. (Equally important - I never started asking for anything in return, either.)
(“Giving” here should not be interpreted strictly in terms of donating or spending money. You can be flat broke and have no treasure; you still have time and talent.)
Then one day, Aaron Walker approached me about becoming a writer for his team.
“You’ve introduced me to so many amazing people,” he said. “You’ve never asked me for anything in return. You need to let me do something for you.”
It was a seminal moment. Only a few weeks remained before I’d agreed to give up on business and look for a job.
Instead, this relationship led to my first year in business as a ghostwriter, now becoming a content agency, mentoring three young hotshot freelancers.
What’s more - I discovered my view of money had changed drastically. When I received my first client payment, my old impulse kicked in … “How can I spend it on something I want?”
But I remembered all the sacrifices my family made to get here, and how unhappy I’d be if I went out and bought something for its own sake. I paid my tithe, my bills and then gave the rest to my wife and children.
Soon, I began to pay back all the money I’d spent from our personal fortune, in spades.
In time, I found myself bankrolling growth-oriented things for the younger disciples I mentor in church.
I suppose it never occurred to me: when Yeshua told us, “Store up for yourselves treasure in heaven,” I didn’t realize you could sometimes make withdrawals.
Just be sure to spend them on storing up more treasures in heaven.