Why religion is an important part of personal finance
This guest-post has had some very passionate comments. I felt it appropriate to reference J.D's thought on the matter included in this article “I've intentionally kept my political and religious leanings obscure at Get Rich Slowly — they have no bearing on personal finance.” However, FreeMoneyFinance disagrees and took time out from their very busy schedule to post a very lengthy and well-written guest article with a counter-viewpoint. –jerichohill(admining while JD is away)
Recently J.D. and I were emailing back and forth discussing a possible guest post on the topic of religion and money. I cover the issue every Sunday on my blog and I tossed out several ideas I thought were worthwhile. Then J.D. said something that decided the issue. He wrote: “I've intentionally kept my political and religious leanings obscure at Get Rich Slowly — they have no bearing on personal finance.”
Ahhh, but they do — or at least the religious leanings do. (I'd argue that political leanings probably do too, but that's for a different post by a more-qualified blogger.) So I'd like to discuss why I think a person's religion should impact their finances. I'll toss out a few of my thoughts on the issue, then let all of you chime in with your points-of-view in the comments.
I'll start with a couple statements so you can get a sense for where I'm coming from:
- I'm a Christian and, as such, I have the most knowledge and experience on the various Christian viewpoints on money, how to handle it, on so on. My knowledge of other religions' beliefs on money can at best be described as “limited,” so please forgive me if I make an inappropriate comment. It's certainly not intentional.
- That said, I think my point-of-view on religion impacting personal finance is true for all religions — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and so on. I think you'll see why in a moment.
Now to the heart of the matter. Here's my short and sweet position on why religious beliefs should impact finances:
Every religion has a set of principles detailing how a person should behave, worship God, treat others and the like. For each of these principles, a context could be (and most likely will be) experienced where money is injected into a situation that challenges a person to either follow or ignore these principles. In other words, how a person reacts with his money in a given situation often is fundamentally tied to whether or not he's actually following his religious practices — it's a visible, outside indication of his true belief in the principles of his religion. Therefore, it follows that our religious beliefs should significantly impact how we handle our finances.
How does this play out practically? Here are a couple generic suggestions that illustrate how religious beliefs should impact how money is handled:
- Almost every religion has some sort of principle that says we should treat our fellow man kindly. Furthermore, many religions go a step further and give specific instructions on how we should care for the poor and down-trodden in society. Does this have any implications on our personal finances? Of course. It impacts how we give to feed and clothe the poor, how much we give, to what organizations and the like. It even influences our reaction to a request from a homeless man for a handout or a request for a donation from a foodbank. Taking it back a step further, it even suggests how we budget our money — being sure we set aside enough to help care for the needy.
- Almost every religion has some sort of principle that includes the worship of (and service to) God, Jesus, nature or some higher being or principle. Many religions advocate that we worship God in many ways — through our actions, in song, in prayer, and even through our money. For instance, the Jewish religion has long had the principle of the tithe — giving the first 10% of a person's income as an act of worship to God. Many Christians practice this principle as well, though several advocate a more general principle of “generous giving” over the tithe. But in any case, doesn't it make sense that if we're commanded to worship and serve God that we'd worship and serve him in all ways — including with our money? Certainly this would impact how we handle our personal finances in many ways.
Now let me be a bit more specific. Here are some examples from the Old and New Testaments that impact various aspects of how we should handle or personal finances. Some are commands and some are general principles, but they all influence how we should handle our money:
- Saving: Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. Proverbs 6:6-8
- Diversification of investments: Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land. Ecclesiastes 11:2
- Controlling greed: Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
- Borrow carefully: The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. Proverbs 22:7
- Being generous: You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 2 Corinthians 9:7-12
- Helping the poor: He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done. Proverbs 19:17
- More on helping the poor: If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 1 John 3:17
- Giving: Just as you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us — see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 2 Corinthians 8:7
I could go on and on (there are hundreds of verses in the Bible on how to handle money), but I think you get the point.
It's a deep subject and I've only skimmed the surface, but we can consider the conversation now started. Please add your own thoughts in the comments below. I'll try to stop in now and then to comment myself and see how the discussion is progressing.
Thanks, FMF, for tackling this subject. Folks, I generally eschew religion and politics at this site, so if you've been wanting to discuss issues of spirituality and finance, now's the time to do it. You can read more about the Bible and money every Sunday at Free Money Finance.