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Biblical economics, Part 1: Checking our temperature

Photo of Annika Greco Thompson Annika Greco Thompson
5 min

I believe the Bible has valuable things to say about every area of public life: the arts, technology, healthcare, government, education, business, finance, family, law, and so on. And the vehicle God uses to communicate biblical truth into these spaces is us, the Church, with the message that we have been reconciled to God, and that the invitation to live in that reconciled state is ours to say yes to.

For people to want to say yes to the invitation, they need to see a Church living by a different pattern to the one they live by. They need to see the people of God prospering, living in healthy relationships, making wise decisions, and importantly, free from anxiety about money.

Money and power

Financial therapy is a growing trend within the mental health space as more and more people have an increasingly complex relationship with money. Mammon is real! This is why I believe so strongly in the message of generosity, and why at Stewardship we want to encourage people to have a counter-cultural relationship with money that goes beyond token charitable giving. We want to see God’s people steward their resources in a way that communicates the Gospel, transforms society, and frees people from captivity.

There are many ways in which to be generous: through our time, our skills and resources, through our emotional openness and availability, through our money and through hospitality (which draws on all of the above). Despite the plethora of ways, Jesus spent more time talking about money than anything else. Why?

My theory is because it’s the thing that most tangibly gives us power. Power to consume, to be self-reliant, to get what we want. The love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10), not only because it can buy us things that distract us from our mission, but because money is about power more than anything else. And power is the thing that is most easily abused. It takes incredible discipline not to abuse our power, to not use it for our own benefit at the expense of someone else’s. Ultimately, an unhealthy desire for power is what keeps us from putting God in His proper place in our lives and in our society.

Hot or cold?

A passage we need to consider when talking about money is the one where Jesus gives the following rebuke to the church in Laodicea:

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:15-17)

Yikes. Jesus does not mince words.

Growing up, I’d heard it interpreted to mean that God wants us to be either totally on fire for Him or reject Him completely, but heaven forbid we should ever be agnostic or ambivalent – that will get us spat out.

But, in light of other portions of Scripture that address holiness, being set apart and living differently – not conforming to the pattern of this world – I think Jesus is saying that we need to be at a different temperature to the rest of the room. Otherwise, we’re of no use to Him.

Which begs the question… are we?

Checking our temperature

The people of Israel spent 40 years wandering around in the desert, learning how to be at a different temperature to the rest of the room. While we no longer have to follow the rituals contained in the Mosaic Law, it’s important to consider that the relational principles found therein have not changed. And God had some pointed things to say about the structure of a society’s economy, things that Jesus reinforced during his earthly ministry. Leviticus 25 makes for interesting reading regarding the institution of debt, and Deuteronomy 23:19-20 condemns charging interest on loans to a fellow countryman. Both books are peppered with guidance on how to live in financial peace with one another, and it’s sobering to think that the two financial institutions God condemned in the Old Testament – debt and interest – are the two main pillars of our economic model today. (Part 2 of this series, published next month, will do a deeper dive on this.)

When it comes to our own practices around money, how different are we to the rest of society? For example, how do we approach making investments? Is our debt manageable, or is it controlling our finances? If our relationship with money isn’t noticeably different, what makes us think that we as the Church are going to succeed in making disciples of our nations – our people, our institutions, our markets, our practices?

It's certainly challenging, but there are ways for Christians to live within a corrupt financial system and keep to a different pattern – Daniel and his friends in Babylon are brilliant examples for us to emulate. But this takes vigilance, a lot of prayer, and continual guidance from the Holy Spirit. It also requires us to actively reject certain financial practices, potentially foregoing career opportunities, and constantly checking our motivation for buying and consuming the things we do. If we desire to see God’s Kingdom on earth as in heaven, then we cannot afford to be lukewarm.

For an insider perspective from a financial planner, see Part 3 of this series – out in July. 

More on money and the Bible

We have an array of blogs that focus on biblical stewardship and charitable giving, as well as a range of resources to help you think more clearly about money.

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Written by

Annika Greco Thompson

Annika is a Swedish-Italian-American with a diverse vocational and geographical background. Having married a Brit, she’s now settled in Liverpool and joined Stewardship’s Philanthropy Services Team in 2023.

Annika is passionate about seeing the Kingdom of God transform all areas of society and equipping the Church to live out its calling as God’s agents of reconciliation. She loves to live generously and expansively through hospitality, travel and strategic giving.