I grew up in a Christian home, and my parents took great care to help me and my siblings to learn, understand, and live according to the Scriptures. We regularly attended a sound, Bible-teaching church. Mom and Dad sacrificed to send us to a Christian school. They encouraged me to attend Bible college, where I majored in Bible and pastoral studies, and to go on from there to pursue seminary training.
It was not until later I realized—despite all those years of training—very little was taught about money and the theology of money. Yes, I learned about the tithe, about giving, and about some basic principles of saving, budgeting, and avoiding debt. I was familiar with Larry Burkett, Dave Ramsey, and others who taught on the topic. I listened to their teaching and read their books to drink in all I could. But my paradigm was flawed. Perhaps like yours.
Because I enjoy the topic of money, I entered the field of financial planning. I pursued training and eventually earned designations as a Certified Financial Planner™, a Chartered Financial Consultant®, and Chartered Life Underwriter®. I loved the work. However, I felt I was devoting my life to helping people with temporal needs and making very little impact for eternity. I felt I had missed God’s calling. Surely, He had prepared me for something more significant! But I did not know what that was.
So I prayed. For years I prayed. I said to God, if He had something else in mind for me, I would do it. But I had no idea what that was. So, I asked Him to show me. I prayed, “If you must write it in the sky for me to understand, please do that. Somehow, please show me!” And then one day, He did—as clear as if it were written in the sky.
I was attending my best friend’s wedding and enjoying the reception afterward. I struck up a conversation with an acquaintance, Tom, who is also a friend of the groom. As we chatted casually, he asked me how things were going, and I shared with him my struggle. He dug further to better understand my heart. And then he made a wild proposal. “Why don’t you come work with us?”
Tom was the executive director of a foundation for a large Christian ministry. He explained the nature of their work. “Planned giving” is the term often used to describe this work. In a nutshell, it is a field of financial planning that offers tools and services designed exclusively for those whose value system includes generous giving. It helps them to give more efficiently and in ways, they had never imagined.
Tom told me that they were looking to hire someone in my area to work with them. And the two most important qualifications for the role were … (wait for it!) … pastoral training and a financial planning background. The reason is that they viewed their staff members as “financial pastors.”
Never would I have imagined that there would be one role that would utilize these two seemingly unrelated fields of training that had defined my life. It was an answer to prayer. Of course, I said yes.
As soon as I started, intense training began. Despite my knowledge of financial planning, I required additional education, as it is a highly specialized field. Not only was there technical training but there was biblical training as well—refreshing eye-opening training!
Tom introduced me to Ray Lyne, who was to become a valued friend and mentor. Ray challenged me to develop a biblical philosophy of money, giving, and fundraising. He showed me Scripture passages, asked me thought-provoking questions, and primed the pump with unique insights that I had never really considered. This led me to question my previous assumptions and radically changed the way I view and understand this topic.
Thus began a journey of searching the Scriptures and seeking to understand God’s perspective on the matter. I am learning to view this issue through God’s eyes, which has led to an important paradigm shift. Let’s uncover some of the key principles in Scripture that address the area of finances.
From the time I was a child, I understood the importance of giving to God and to God’s work. The principle of the tithe can be seen throughout the Bible, and that was my guide for my giving. I believed that the money I placed in the offering plate on Sunday morning was God’s portion. Everything else belonged to me, and I could do with it whatever I wanted.
Old Paradigm – Spiritually Neutral
As I read books and heard from teachers, I learned that there are a handful of principles in the Bible intended to help me manage my money. These include saving for the future, avoiding debt, paying taxes, and working diligently to earn a paycheck. If I managed my money well, I could receive greater enjoyment of my money. It was all about me.
And where did the 90 percent—my portion—fit into my spiritual life? Did God care about that? I assumed that there were certain things that God cared about: prayer, church attendance, reading the Bible, and morality. I also believed there were certain things that were spiritually neutral. I wondered if God really cared about things like life insurance, writing a will, and the amount of money I spend on groceries.
What does the Bible say? First, it is clear that God made everything. “All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Col 1:16).
It is also true that God is the source of all good things—our provider. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). Even the money we work hard to earn ultimately comes from God. “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Deut 8:17-18).
Further, the Bible teaches us that God owns everything. Everything! Even after it is placed into our hands. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Ps 24:1).
“Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours … Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you” (I Chr 29:11,16).
These are foundational truths that allow us to see the financial arena of our lives in a brand-new way. Rather than seeing our finances (the portion that we keep after we give God “His portion”) as being spiritually neutral, we discover that it is an important segment of our lives in which we can engage with God! Knowing that it all belongs to God allows us to welcome God into our financial lives! We have the opportunity to walk with God, even in this sector of life that we may have previously overlooked.
New Paradigm – Spiritually Engaging
Stewardship is often interpreted as giving. Giving does not make one a steward. Giving is something a steward does. But stewardship is about much more than giving. It is about understanding that God owns it all. It is about managing it in a way that honors Him.
A friend once asked to borrow my car for a few days. When he returned it, I found that he had filled the gas tank, washed and detailed the car inside and out, and even made several necessary repairs. Because it was my car—not his—he took great care to show his respect for the vehicle and his appreciation to me. He treated the vehicle better than if it were his own. He cared for the car because he acknowledged my ownership of the car. That is stewardship.
Knowing that it all comes from God and it all belongs to God informs us that everything we do with God’s money has spiritual implications. Everything! As His stewards, we have the privilege of managing God’s resources according to His heart, His agenda, and in a way that honors Him. Ask yourself, “What would Jesus do if He had my paycheck, my bank account, my home, and my investments?” What would that look like if you began viewing “your money” as God’s money, and yourself as a steward rather than an owner?
What did Jesus say is His number one competitor? Is it Satan? No. It is money! He said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Mt 6:24). The flesh tempts us to view money and that which money can buy as the focus of our worship. This replaces our worship of God and pushes Him out of the picture, putting money in its place. Conversely, we have a wonderful and very practical opportunity to worship God in our finances by making Him the object of our worship over and above money.
As we invite God into the financial arena of our lives, the process becomes one of listening to God so that we can manage His resources for His glory. Thereby, we demonstrate our worship of Him. Enoch walked with God. We can do the same. And the reward will be one of the highest praise from our Master: “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Mt 25:21).
Do you view finances as a divided ownership or all-encompassing God-ownership? Do you have a spiritually neutral mindset or spiritually engaging lifestyle?
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom12:2).
I invite you to shift your paradigm. Let God’s Word guide your thoughts and actions so that you can view the world through God’s eyes and live your life according to His principles. May this be true in the area of your finances. May this be true in every area of your life.
About the Contributors
Scott Talbot has over 30 years of experience in the field of financial planning, including 20+ years in planned giving. Prior to joining Dallas Seminary Foundation, he served as the Senior Executive Director of Planned Giving at World Vision, where he assisted donors with their planning needs and oversaw the planned giving team. Other organizations with which Scott has served include Campus Crusade for Christ, and In Touch Ministries. Scott has earned the designations of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, Chartered Financial Consultant®, and Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy®. In addition, he is a Bible college and seminary graduate. Scott is a native of southeastern Pennsylvania and has also lived in the Seattle area. He is married to Susan, and they have a son and daughter-in-law—Austen and Julia—who currently live in Tokyo. Scott & Susan also have a miniature dachshund named Darby.