For several years I’ve wanted to publish something on money geared towards a Christian audience. I thought at first it would mostly be financial advice from a biblical perspective. In 2019 I did a fairly deep dive into keyword research, trying out many terms such as “god and money”, “bible and money”, “christian finance” and many others. The only one which passed all the tests for a keyword strong enough to build a business around was “stewardship”.
Historically, this term was used more often and had a broader meaning in the English language. Today its primary connotation could be summarized by “the use of money and other financial resources in the way God wants you to.” This is roughly its colloquial meaning in a Christian context, and based on preliminary research I think that is what most Americans mean when they think of stewardship.
At that point, I had already been watching the website Stewardship.com for several years. Under a previous owner (who I believe is a well-known Christian financial author and speaker), Stewardship.com had some good articles, but I always felt it could be so much more. After visiting the website I would often browse other domain names, hoping to find something almost as good for the website I wanted to build. Every time I ended that search feeling dissatisfied. None of the other options even came close. I never imagined I’d have the opportunity one day to purchase Stewardship.com itself.
In 2022 I checked again and saw that Stewardship.com was up for sale. Realizing this might be my only opportunity, I did a deep dive into domain name valuation and within a month I was fortunate enough to buy the domain. But in the intervening years my vision for this project on money and the Bible had changed significantly. In 2019 I read a book, Killing Sacred Cows that taught personal finance from a very fundamental, first-principles method. Although I could never have articulated them so clearly, I was already using many of those principles in my own business and personal finances. The approach resonated with my science background in which we tended to build results from first principles as much as possible. I also noticed that several of those principles came from the Bible. This planted a seed in me to go directly to the Bible and find the main principles it teaches about money.
Second, I began to feel a little bored with my current career path, which at its core involved buying cheap things to sell them at much higher prices later. I had been pretty successful at this, plus I’m a Christian, which in my mind qualified me to write something on the topic of finances for a Christian audience. But now I began to question how much I cared about that. Helping Christians make better financial decisions certainly has value. But isn’t there already lots of good material out there? And more importantly, by “better” financial decisions did I mean the same thing as the world? That is, decisions that would lead to wealthier Christians, but not necessarily more Christ-like Christians?
With this realization my plans for a book on this topic became much more focused. I decided to put aside the financial knowledge I had accumulated. Instead, why not go directly to the Bible and try to find whether there were underlying principles that motivated everything it said about money? I began reading through the New Testament and keeping notes on every passage which mentioned money, wealth, or material possessions. After finishing Matthew, I cross-referenced the stories common between Matthew, Mark, and Luke (which share quite a bit of material). I then did the same thing with Mark and Luke, finding every passage that was not already mentioned in Matthew, and summarizing it in my own words. Based on these synoptic gospels I concluded that money is one of Jesus’s favorite topics.
Not of this world
But next came the gospel according to John. I was surprised to find that it says almost nothing about money. I kept reading but added very little to my notebook. What I did add was kind of a stretch, nothing like the direct references to money and wealth in the other gospels. The reading went pretty fast, I don’t remember for sure, but I probably finished John in one day. I was feeling pretty good about the fast progress, and looking forward to moving on to Acts which I knew had a lot more direct teaching on money. But then something surprising happened. As the crowd shouted “Crucify him!” and the chief priests “We have no king but Caesar!” I realized the gospel of John is all about money.
All those “it’s a stretch” implicit references to money in John were suddenly unified. They went from being a stretch to being the foundation — the most important principle — of the Bible’s teaching on money, wealth, and possessions. John’s gospel is more structured and processed than the synoptics. It reads less like a collection of Jesus’s sayings, and more like a unified manifesto of Jesus’s mission. It makes the point over and over that Jesus is a king, but one who is “not of this world.” His disciples have a home, and an inheritance, but those are not of this world either. Jesus is contrasted with the kings of this world. The Jewish leaders are shown to have accepted the kings of this world — Caesar, money, Satan — as their kings above God himself. It echoes back to 1 Samuel, when the Israelites cried out for a king, and God informed Samuel that they had rejected him, God himself, as their king.
In John, Jesus uses the word, “world,” over and over. Think of the traditional enemies of the church: the world, the flesh, and the devil. These three are all interconnected and work together in any temptation. But just as lust or gluttony originates in the flesh, I believe the temptation towards wealth primarily comes from the world. So when Jesus uses the term “world” over and over again in John, it’s not a stretch to assume that term encompasses money, as well as the power and prestige prized by the world.
I believe this understanding of Jesus’s mission as being a king “not of this world” provides the foundation for understanding everything the Bible has to say about money, wealth, and worldy possessions, in both the Old and New Testaments. But there is much more. I think it’s worth taking the time to consider every verse. It’s my hope that Stewardship.com will be the most comprehensive free resource on this topic. I would like to discuss every single verse on money, wealth, and possessions, but do so in a logical way that makes them memorable and not overwhelming.
As of now, this is the rough outline I see:
Part I: Core Teachings
- John — Jesus is a king, but not of this world
- Synoptic Gospels — Jesus’s parables and other teachings on money
- Acts and Epistles — Money in the early church
- Proverbs and Ecclesiastes — Making good financial decisions
Part II: Indirect Teachings
- Case studies I: Wealthy and Righteous — Abraham, Joseph, Esther, and others
- Case studies II: Poor and Righteous — Jesus, Paul, Jeremiah, and others
- God’s Financial System I — Money and possessions in the Law
- God’s Financial System II — How Sabbatical and Jubilee solve modern financial problems
- Psalms, Prophets, Revelation — Images of wealth and poverty
Appendix I — Brief comments on any verse not woven into the above chapters
Appendix II — Index of every passage on money, wealth, and possessions
The above is organized like a book outline, but the medium will actually be a website. A website will make it easy to include visual aids along with the text. It will also make it easy to cross-reference different sections or add audio/video versions. The primary media I use may even turn out to be visual, I’m not sure yet. To this point I only have experience with the simplest kind of wordpress blog. But I hope to learn more about website design along the way and create something awesome.
In the future I will probably run Stewardship.com as a for-profit company. But I would like to keep the primary product, this teaching on the Bible and money, free forever.