This is a book about money – the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s about how to acquire and use wealth without being corrupted by it, and without feeling guilty about having it. It’s about setting appropriate goals. It’s about developing serious financial muscle without falling prey to the love of money. It’s about mastering the skills of budgeting, saving, investing, insuring, and giving. And it’s about the Bible verses they almost never explain in church.
Mammon is a key Bible word. True, it’s not a word you see often. The King James Version of the Bible contains a total of 788,280 words, and in all that text, the word mammon occurs just four times. Despite its infrequent appearances, it is a far more important term than most people realize.
Mammon is a loaded word. It means “riches.” It sometimes carries a strongly negative connotation of avarice as a lifestyle, of wealth as a false god. Other times it’s a more neutral term for wealth, a usage that carries less spiritual and emotional baggage. The best-known Bible verse that uses this word is Matthew 6:24: No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
You can’t serve God and mammon, but you can certainly make mammon serve you – and serve you well. This means putting money to work in ways that will be both satisfying to you and pleasing to God. Understanding how to do this can improve your life in profound ways.
The Bible has a lot to say about this subject. There are hundreds of scripture verses that directly touch on the acquisition and management of money and material wealth. More than twenty-five years in ministry have convinced me that many churches overlook much of this content, to the detriment of their members. For example, think about the following passage of scripture, known as the Parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-12).
He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’
So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ So he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.
And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore, if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?”
This story describes a steward – a manager – who did his job either incompetently or unethically. When he was caught and about to be terminated, he cleverly went about buying the good will of his employer’s debtors. He used money to make people feel indebted to him, so he’d have someplace to land when he lost his job. It was a win-win situation: His employer got a sudden influx of cash from settlements on outstanding debts that might have been slow and difficult to collect otherwise. And the steward got a bunch of people who owed him a favor. The master commended his former servant for being so shrewd.
Jesus observed that unbelievers (the children of this world) are as a group wiser – savvier, cannier, shrewder – than believers are. This ought not be so. He then commanded His followers to “make friends for yourselves” via worldly wealth. Have you ever heard a preacher expound on that particular command of the Lord’s? Neither have I. You’ve probably heard many presentations on the fact that you cannot serve both God and mammon. But the other things Jesus said in this passage and elsewhere tend to get left out.
One of my purposes in writing this book is to help correct those omissions; to bring to light some of the Bible’s overlooked teachings on money management and to show modern readers the practical applications of those teachings. Because of its emphasis on the practical, this book is not just a Bible study. It’s a how-to book, a primer on today’s financial tools and techniques for use in real life, right now. It is written for people who wish to be good money managers according to both enduring principles and current financial planning practice.