The 4 Biblical Principles of Money Management

Michael Blue  and Ron Blue
header for The 4 Biblical Principles of Money Management

Even though the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25:14–30 deals primarily with Christ’s return, it has shown me four basic biblical principles of money management that summarize much of what the Bible has to say regarding money and money management. If we can let these principles saturate our inherently selfish hearts and become part of us, I believe we will be better prepared for accomplishing His purposes in this lifetime and better prepared for heaven.

1. God Owns It All

Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them.
—Matthew 25:14

Very few Christians would argue with the principle that God owns it all, and yet if we follow that principle to its natural conclusion, there are three revolutionary implications. The first implication is that God has the right to whatever He wants whenever He wants it. It is all His, because an owner has rights; I, as a steward, have only responsibilities. I may receive some benefits while maintaining my responsibilities, but the owner retains ownership.

When my oldest child reached driving age, she was very eager to use my car and, as her father, I entrusted my car to her. There was never any question that I could take back my car at any time for any reason. She had responsibilities. I maintained all the rights. But I, as the owner, gave her a great benefit by entrusting her with the car’s use, and she returned that benefit with responsible use and care of the car. In the same way, every single possession that I have comes from someone else—God. I literally possess much but own nothing. God benefits me by sharing His property with me. I have a responsibility to Him to use it in a way that blesses and glorifies Him.

If you own your home, take a walk around your property to get a feel for the reality of this principle. Reflect on how long that dirt has been there and how long it will continue to be there; then ask yourself if you really own it or whether you merely possess it. You may have the title to it, but that title reflects your right to possess it temporarily, not forever. Only God literally owns it forever.

If I really believe that God owns it all, then when I lose any possession for whatever reason, my emotions may cry out, but my mind and spirit have not the slightest question as to God’s right to take whatever He wants whenever He wants it. Really believing this also frees me to give generously of God’s resources to God’s purposes and His people. All that I have belongs to Him.

The second implication of God owning it all is that not only is my giving decision a spiritual decision, but every spending decision is a spiritual decision. There is nothing more spiritual about giving to your church than buying a car, taking a vacation, buying food, paying off debt, paying taxes, and so on. These are all responsible uses of His resources. He owns all that I have. He doesn’t say I must use it all in one way, say as an offering. He doesn’t say I must use it all the same way each time. He gives us resources to provide for us, benefit us, and reach the world for Christ. Many God-glorifying responsible uses fit into these broad categories. Think about the freedom of knowing that if God owns it all—and He does—He must have some thoughts about how He wants me to use His property. The Bible reveals many specific guidelines as to how the owner wants His property used. As a steward, I have a great deal of latitude, but I am still responsible to the owner. Some day I will give an accounting of how I used His property.

The third implication of the truth that God owns it all is that you can’t fake stewardship. Your checkbook reveals all that you really believe about stewardship. Your life story could be written from your checkbook. It reflects your goals, priorities, convictions, relationships, and even the use of your time. A person who has been a Christian for even a short while can fake prayer, Bible study, evangelism, and going to church, but he can’t fake what his checkbook reveals. Maybe that is why so many of us are so secretive about our personal finances. Even within accountability groups where people share many intimate struggles, it is rare that anyone shares about how much (or how little) they give.

2. We Are in a Growth Process

His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
—Matthew 25:21

In reading the Scriptures, we can’t escape the truths that our time on earth is temporary and is to be used to serve our Lord. The whole parable emphasizes these truths. I believe that God uses money and material possessions in our earthly lives during this growth process as a tool, a test, and a testimony. As Paul said in Philippians 4:11–12:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Money and material possessions are very effective tools that God uses to help you grow. Therefore, you need always to ask, “God, what do You want me to learn?” You should not focus on asking (really whining), “God, why are You doing this to me?” My role as a counselor has been to help people discover what God would have them learn, either from the situation of their abundance, or from the situation of their apparent scarcity. God is not trying to frustrate us. He is trying to get our attention, and money is a great attention-getter.

Money is not only a tool but also a test.

So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
—Luke 16:11–12

I don’t understand it, but I do know that somehow my eternal position and reward is determined irrevocably by my faithfulness in handling property that has been entrusted to me by God. And not only that, but this verse and others indicate that God trusts the true riches of knowing and understanding Him more to those who show their resolute commitment to Him in tangible ways, such as letting go of money or relationships.

We have already looked at the fact that in Matthew 5:13–16 we are called to be salt and light. I believe we can say that God can utilize my use of His resources as a testimony to the world. My attitude as a Christian toward wealth becomes the testimony. My attitude when He withholds a desire is also a testimony. My verbal praise when He arranges and allows financial blessings—or prevents my undoing—is also a testimony. Has He worked a financial miracle for you? Don’t discount it as coincidence. Don’t forget it years down the road when you have more affluence. Remember, rest and revel in His answered prayer over financial matters; just don’t let resentment creep in when things don’t go your way in human terms. This is teaching time. This is testimony time. Have you failed in your use of God’s money? What was your response to His “No”? What is your verbal witness of His involvement in your life? Don’t let your first failure keep you so defeated that you talk yourself into failing again. Confess it, receive His mercy, and move on. You’ll have another chance tomorrow. Remember, growth is a process, not a once-and-for-all. Jesus wants children who rely on Him and students who listen to Him, not grown-up graduates who don’t need Him anymore.

3. The Amount Is Not Important

His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
—Matthew 25:23

When you look back to verse 21 and compare it word for word with verse 23, you will see that the same words were spoken to the slave with five talents as to the one with two talents. Both were reminded that they had been faithful with a few things and both were promised something as a reward. You can draw the conclusion that the amount you have is unimportant, but how you handle what you have been entrusted with is very important.

There has been plenty of controversy over the past thirty years about whether an American Christian is more spiritual on one hand by accumulating much (God’s “blessing”), or on the other hand by giving it all away (God’s “martyr”). I believe that both are extremes and not reflective of what God says. He neither condemns wealth nor commends poverty, or vice versa. The principle found in Scripture is that He owns it all. Therefore, whatever He chooses to entrust you with, hold with an open hand, allowing Him to entrust you with more if He so chooses, or allowing Him to take whatever He wants. It is all His. That is the attitude He wants you to develop, and whatever you have, little or much, your attitude should remain the same.

4. Faith Requires Action

Then the man who had received the one talent came. “Master,” he said, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.” His master replied, “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten talents. For whoever has will be given more, and will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
—Matthew 25:24–30

The wicked servant knew better, but he did nothing. Many of us know what we ought to do, but we disobey or delay. And frankly, to delay is to disobey. We have emotional faith and/or intellectual faith, but not active faith. We know, but . . .

We may know deep down what God would have us do, but we are so bombarded with worldly input, which seems to be acceptable, that we are paralyzed. We take no action because of the fear of making a mistake biblically or financially. Or we are frustrated and confused. We do only what we feel good about. Living by our feelings rather than “the truth” can be very dangerous. “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6).

As I have taught this parable over many years, I often pose the question to my audience: “Why did the master give the wicked servant’s talent to the one who already had ten?” Perhaps the slave who had originally been given five talents was better equipped to handle the extra one, perhaps he was more generous with the money he had been given, or perhaps the master was playing favorites. I have heard a lot of different answers over the years—some good and some not so good. What I tell my audiences is that we just don’t know the answer to this question. And the answer doesn’t matter. What matters is that the talents are the Master’s and He gets to choose who gets what and how much that person gets. It is not my job or your job to tell the Master what to do with His resources; it is only our job to be faithful to use what we have been given.

For Further Reading:

Master Your Money

by Ron Blue with Michael Blue

A step-by-step guide to financial freedom Do you know if you have enough? Do you know how much is enough? If you can’t answer these...

book cover for Master Your Money