If we are faithful God will provide. What do we say to those who are faithful yet find that their needs are not provided? Or is it that they are not really being faithful and we just don’t know the entire story?
— Vincent Duncombe,
Thanks for the question, Vincent. You submitted this question in the comments section of this article about how God provides for us and expects our obedience. While I answered it briefly in a follow-up comment, I thought that this question merited a more in-depth discussion.
You’re raising a question that has come up over and over again in Christian circles. We believe that God promises to provide for our needs if we are faithful to follow Him. But we all know Christians who are struggling financially. So what gives?
The answer, of course, is “it depends.” It depends on a whole host of factors, actually. But there are some fundamental principles that will help us navigate through these difficult waters.
Ownership, righteousness and wisdom
Perhaps the most fundamental principles are these two: God owns everything, and He gives us everything that we have. Whenever we talk about money and resources, we have to maintain this perspective. Even the things that belong to me don’t really belong to me — they are God’s resources that He has entrusted to me to manage.
Next, we need to understand the difference between righteousness and wisdom. Though these ideas are very closely related, they’re not exactly the same thing, and it’s possible to have one without the other.
Righteousness refers to walking in holiness with God. Living a righteous life means staying away from sin and obeying the commands that God gives us. One of the primary concerns of the Christian life is endeavoring to walk in righteousness.
Wisdom, on the other hand, is not exactly about morality, but about insight and good decision-making. Wisdom is about being able to see danger in the distance and avoid it. It’s about knowing what kinds of actions, attitudes and disciplines will cause you to succeed, and applying those things to your life.
Righteousness + Wisdom = Success
I take the time to differentiate between these two ideas for a key reason: To have true, biblical success with our finances requires both righteousness and wisdom. And I think that many times Christians fail to enjoy their financial potential because they’re strong in righteousness but not in wisdom.
When we talk about God providing for those who are faithful to follow Him, we’re really talking about righteousness. Sin causes poverty, but the Bible teaches us that prosperity is a fruit of righteousness.
Sin leads us down paths that have all kinds of financial pitfalls, but when we walk in morality and integrity, we steer clear of many of these dangers. And since everything in the universe belongs to God anyway, He promises that He will always meet the needs of people who are faithful to follow Him in righteousness.
But we also have to remember that God gives us resources for us to manage, and this is where wisdom comes in to the equation. When God provides for us with jobs, money and other resources, we still have to decide how we’re going to manage those resources. If we manage them wisely, they can meet our needs for a long time and help us to build wealth. If we’re foolish with them, though, we can find ourselves in need again very quickly.
The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom about how we should manage money. It teaches us about budgeting, saving, investing and giving. It talks about hard work, discipline and diligence. If we apply all of the wisdom of Proverbs to our financial resources, we can’t help but to be successful.
Christians without wisdom
So, Vincent, here’s how I see this all working out: Too many Christians have learned to walk in righteousness — aligning their lives with the basic morality of God’s word — but have not learned to walk in financial wisdom. They may be faithful, but they struggle with money because they are not wise.
In my experience, many Christians who are having financial trouble are just like many unbelievers who are having financial trouble. They don’t have a good budget, they aren’t disciplined in their spending and savings, and they rely too much on debt.
God is faithful to provide for us when we are faithful to walk in righteousness. But in order to win with money, we have to add wisdom to righteousness. If we live foolishly with our money, we risk squandering the very resources that God has entrusted us with.
That’s why God, Money & Me exists, and I suspect it’s why your blog exists as well. I believe that God is always faithful, but that we need to do a better job at teaching wisdom so that Christians can make the most of His provision.
If we learn to walk in both righteousness and wisdom, we can see great fruit in our own financial lives, and great progress in the kingdom of God.