It’s almost been a month since my last update. In that time I’ve started learning to use Logos Bible software. It has a lot of great tools that will be useful for this project. I’ve almost finished reading through the New Testament while noting every passage involving money, wealth, and possessions. All the passages still seem to fit within the seven principles described below. I had begun taking notes for this project several years ago in a physical notebook. At that point I made it through about half the New Testament: the Gospels and Acts. Now I’ve shifted to taking notes in Logos via the Notebook tool and Passage List documents where I record every passage of interest. It is a huge step up in efficiency from my previous process.
Most important thing in this update is this diagram which makes the big picture logic much clearer:
Same principles as in the previous update, but I’ve rearranged the order somewhat. Every other principle flows from Principle 1: Jesus is King. Principles 2-7 are now organized into three groups covering the topics of Work, Giving, and Investing. Each category has two principles under it that I think covers everything the Bible says. Some of the choices might seem questionable: for example, Principle 2 covers both work and rest, which could arguably be split into two. One could also argue principles 4 and 5 both encourage giving, why not combine them into one principle? I believe my choices here are well justified, and the descriptions below explain why.
Right now I have just 1-3 John, Jude, and Revelation left to do in the New Testament. I’m not sure whether I’ll do the same thing with the Old Testament, i.e., read the whole thing while recording every relevant passage. I may just limit that verse-by-verse reading to the Pentateuch and Wisdom lit (Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes being most important). I just read the whole OT a few months ago and there are a lot of relevant stories I have in mind and can easily find from memory, most of which are in the Historical books and a handful from the Prophets. Same for the relevant pieces of the Law/Torah, although I still want to read that in its entirety. Then using simple text searches I can do a pretty good job of finding any other passages on money, wealth, or possessions that I’ve forgotten.
Most of these passages are not terribly important and will get no more than a passing reference in the finished product. Each principle will likely center around 5-10 relevant passages, we’ll see. But I hate to overlook an obscure passage that could turn out to be important.
Anyway, thinking through all this material it feels like the vision for this website has started to stabilize. I’m still saving all the old “About” pages as blog posts. It’s especially still worth reading the original version here. Each principle draws from multiple parts of the Bible in the Old and New Testaments.
Principle 1: Jesus is king
Jesus is a king, but one who is not of this world. When we follow the king who is not of this world our needs in this world and the next will be provided for. No one can have two masters, we cannot serve both God and money. The love of money is the root of all evil, yet money itself is not evil. Money is similar to that line about humility: “it’s not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” It’s not about having less money (necessarily), it’s about thinking less about money, and more about Jesus. As we do that he will take care of our needs.
Principle 2: Work hard, but not all the time
We need to work hard to provide for ourselves, our families, and those in need. Paul worked hard to provide for his own material needs even while preaching. “The one who does not work, does not eat.” No matter our job we can do it “as if for the Lord, not for man.” And yet, to sustain hard work over a lifetime we must balance it with times of rest and refreshment.
Principle 3: Your mission is not my mission
Jesus called some to leave everything and follow him. Others he told to return to their home and tell people about him. The Bible has a number of examples of righteous people with power and wealth (David, Daniel, Joseph, early Christians who supported others) as well as righteous who were poor and mistreated (Jeremiah, Paul, Jesus himself). Others, like Job, went back and forth between wealth and poverty while remaining faithful to God. A corollary of this principle is that whatever your mission is, God will provide what you need to carry it out. For some that will mean owning a business and having some form of wealth, for others it will mean relying on others’ generosity. Each has its place.
Principle 4: Give consistently
Much of the Old and New Testament emphasizes consistent giving. The Israelites were instructed to give the firstfruits of their produce. Part of this went to support the Levites and Priests so they could focus on ministering to the spiritual needs of the people. The New Testament affirms that principle if not the exact amount that should be given. Those who have extra are also asked to share with those in need. The exhortation to give is so frequent that it’s hard to imagine a Christian with extra money who never gives.
Principle 5: Once in awhile, give extravagantly
Some of Jesus’s greatest praise was reserved for people who gave extravagantly, for example, the woman with the jar of expensive perfume and the old woman who gave “all she had to live on.” Jesus himself followed up a life of consistent giving with the extravagant gift of his life. As in principle 2, this looks different for every person. We’ll look at examples of extravagant giving including the Tabernacle, the Temple, and the early believers who sold fields or houses to share with Christians in need.
Principle 6: Don’t hoard
Most people probably aren’t going to give away everything they own. So what should we do with the money we don’t give? The Bible is clear that hoarding is not the way to go. Think of the parable of the guy who built bigger barns to “have many years of ease.” That very night his life was taken from him and others got what he had stored up. But if worldly “investing” looks suspiciously like hoarding, how can we manage our extra in a way that pleases God?
Principle 7: God’s crash-proof economy
A number of Old Testament laws describe the economic and financial system God wanted Israel to follow. I believe those laws were chosen in order to prevent the two biggest dangers modern financial systems face: (i) asset booms and crashes and (ii) systemic and absurdly high inequality between rich and poor. We will look at the causes of these dangers and show how the Mosaic Law acts to prevent them. I doubt any nation will ever implement laws like this before Jesus comes back. But by looking into these economic principles we will gain some practical knowledge plus a greater appreciation for God’s wisdom.