The Bible seems to say two things about money. That it’s all good or it’s all bad. Of course, what it really says is that money, like all good things, can be worshiped as an idol. Samson worships a woman as an idol (he tells her how to released him from his vow to God), Israel worships the Torah as an idol (see the New Testament), and Adam and Eve treat food as an idol, trusting it for wisdom rather than God. Yet none of these is bad. I suspect that Christians are more suspicious of money because theologians, who are notoriously bad at being creative, industrious, and good with people (all skills that help one make money), then to teach that money (which they cannot make easily) is almost entirely bad, rather than hitting the balance appropriately.
Here’s my attempt at a brief mindset shift to help Christians deal with money in a fashion that is neither idolatrous or irresponsible. Here’s the mindset shift:
Money is a metric.
What do I mean:
- Money is a measure of positive spiritual health
- If you have a positive bank balance and observe that you feel joy because it is a result of virtues you would choose to obtain even without money (industriousness, creativity, charisma, frugality, and generosity) is a sign of spiritual health. In other words, you know how to make money and be rich or to lose it all and be poor without anxiety because Christ gives you strength (Phil 4:11-13).
- If you have nice things that you can use to care for your family, this may be a sign of wisdom (Proverbs 21:20).
- Money is a measure of negative spiritual health
- Having a negative bank balance, severe anxiety, an obsession with financial status, or a resentment of those more successful than you is a sign that you may need to repent of your laziness, pay off your debts, learn some new skills, and manage your own life rather than hating everybody else.
- Having a large bank balance because you never give alms, help the church, show hospitality, take breaks for family, or choose health over work is a sign that you worship money.
Learning to view money as a metric, one tool among many for assessing my spiritual health has been very useful. I hope that it is helpful to you as well.