Honoring God With Our Money: Lessons from the Prodigal Son

Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son in the book of Luke.  This parable often used to illustrate God’s amazing love and grace towards His children.  However, it is a story that can teach us some important financial principles.  A synopsis of the story is below, and you can read the complete story in Luke 15:11 – 32.

The story begins as, “There was a man who had two sons.  The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.”

  prodigal-son-receives-his-inheritance

The son left home and engaged in wild living.  He blew through his inheritance quickly.  About the time he ran out of money, a severe famine struck the country.  The son found himself without friends and in need of a job.  The only job he was able to get was feeding pigs. 

prodigal-son-slops-pigs

Eventually the son became so desperate that he decided to return home and throw himself on his father’s mercy.  The father rejoiced to have his errant son home and threw a feast to celebrate.  The older brother became angry and refused to join in the celebration.  His father explained that he had to celebrate the younger son’s return and that the older son was entitled to anything that belongs to the father, all he had to do was ask.

return-of-prodigal-son-celebrated

From a financial point of view, this story illustrates the following principles:

1) Money was not the answer to the prodigal son’s problems and it is never the solutions to our problems.  We do need money to buy the things we need, but money will not make us a better person or bring lasting happiness.

2) Sometimes the Father gives us what we demand, even when it is not in our best interest.  I do not imagine the conversation between the father and the younger son requesting money to be a calm, cordial dialogue.  Rather, I envision a son pestering his father for weeks or months to give him his share.  Although the father does not think it is in his son’s best interest, eventually he gives in to his son’s demands.  We like to think that God only gives us what is good for us; however, the Bible clearly states that God gave in to Israel’s desire for a king.  God warned the Israelites that a king would oppress and tax them, yet they were undeterred in their demands.  God yielded to their demands and allowed them to learn for themselves that God’s plans are the best plans.

3) Wealth that is not earned is not appreciated.  The younger son did not value the money his father gave him because he didn’t work for it.  It didn’t cost him many hours of labor, so he thought little of wasting it on frivolities.

4) You cannot buy true friends.  Friends that like you for your money will scatter when the money is gone.  Unfortunately, many celebrities have had to learn this lesson the hard way.

5) All that the Father has He shares with His children.  If you are a child of God, all the riches of Heaven are available to you. This doesn’t mean that God is going to give them to you (reread point 2).  It does mean, however, that you should make your needs known to God and ask Him to meet them.  God does take care of His children.

I hope that you will take the lessons of the prodigal son to heart.  God desires His best for you.  Often we want things that are not actually in our best interest.  Trust God and allow Him to give you those things that will help you to grow and mature in Him and to withhold those things that will lead you away from Him.

Have you ever greatly desired something and obtained it, only to find out that it didn’t live up to your expectations?

Honoring God With Our Money: Purpose of Money

Before we can really consider how to honor God with our money, we need to consider the purpose of money.

Money serves to make transactions easier.  Without money, we would have to barter for the things we need and want.  Work is a form of barter.  I go to work for you and give up my free time.  While I am at work, I accomplish the tasks you assign to me.  In exchange for my time and labor, you pay me an agreed upon sum.  Without money, I would have to trade my services to you for products or services that I need and that you could supply.  Money makes the whole process much simpler than a bartering system.

Most of us work hard to earn our money.  We want to get the most for our money.  We use money to meet our needs and to make life easier and more enjoyable.

Isaiah 55:2 provides a good framework for money management.  It says “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labors on what does not satisfy?

In this verse, bread signifies necessities of life–food, shelter, clothing, and other things we truly need.  If we spend our money to buy the things we need, we feel satisfied and content.  When we waste our money on things that we don’t need, we feel regret and discontent.  All of us have purchased things we thought we really wanted, only to have them sit in a closet unused for years before we decided to get rid of them.  Our natural tendency to purchase items we don’t need has led to the rise of yard sales and thrift stores.

I believe we would waste much less money if we would stop and ask ourselves two questions before making a purchase:

1) Do I truly need this item?

2) Am I willing to trade ______ hour(s) of my labor to obtain this item?

This week I encourage you to pause before making any discretionary purchases and consider these questions.

Honoring God With Our Money, Lesson 1

I have just begun teaching a Sunday school class entitled Honoring God With Our Money.  Earlier this year, I read Dwight L. Moody’s book Pleasure and Profit in Bible Study. It inspired me to do a word search on what the Bible says about money.  That lead to searches on riches, wealth, poverty, giving, charity, tithing, and greed.

The Bible has quite a lot to say about money and finances.  These teachings are still valid today and can be used as a guideline for how to live in financial freedom.  As I studied, I felt impressed to write a Sunday school curriculum and teach these principals to some of my fellow church members.  In this space, I will also share this information with my readers.

At the beginning of each week, I will post the student worksheets.  Then, throughout the week, I will post the teaching notes.  This study is for anyone who is experiencing financial difficulties and for everyone who wants to know more about what the Bible says about money and finances.

 Please feel free to post comments, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with me.  I hope that you will find this study useful and that it will give you a better understanding of how we can honor God by the way we earn, spend, give, and share our money.  May God richly bless you, financially and spiritually, as you begin to apply these godly principals to your life.

Week 1:  Purpose of Money, Overview of Class

Think AboutWhat purposes does money serve?

Read Theme Verse:  Isaiah 55:2  Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labors on what does not satisfy?

In this verse, what does bread signify?

When have you spend your money on things that brought no satisfaction?

 

Activity:  Make a list of a few of your biggest money mistakes.

  1. _________________________________________________
  2. __________________________________________________
  3. _________________________________________________
  4. _________________________________________________
  5. _________________________________________________

Why did you regret spending your money on these items?

If you could have back the money you spent on those items, what would the money allow you to do?

Read Luke 15:11 – 32—The Parable of the Prodigal Son

Think About: What does this parable teach us about money?

Read Proverbs 22:1  A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

According to this verse, what is the measure of true wealth?

In this Bible study, we are going to consider how we can Honor God with our money.  Honoring God with money involves

(1) earning money honestly,

(2) spending money wisely,

(3) giving back to the work of the Lord a portion of our earnings, and

(4) sharing with those less fortunate than us.

Accomplishing all four of these goals requires understanding how God views money and having a plan for managing our money.

Life Application:

Proverbs 30:8  Give me neither poverty or riches, but give me only my daily bread.  Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say “Who is the Lord?” Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.