I did a couple of posts recently (here and here) about Financial Peace University, a Christian finance curriculum our church is currently using but with which I am not completely thrilled. But I am also reading another book by a guy named Frederick S. Leahy on the sovereignty of God. It is called The Hand of God. I chose it because I had read Leahy’s book on demon possession (see this post) and liked it so much I wanted to read more of his stuff. I am also really enjoying this book. It has a chapter on God’s provision for us which touches on a lot of issues of how we think about and treat our money which is the reason for this post.
One of my main criticisms of Dave Ramsey and FPU is that it seems like a secular system with a Christian veneer laid over it. And while there may be nothing inherently unchristian about most of what he says, it is also not very well tied in to the Word of God. I will give Dave Ramsey that he is practical. He is about the details of what people can actually do and most of all about using psychologically based theories to change people’s habits about money. What I mean by psychologically based theories is that, for instance, he has people pay off their smallest debts first rather than their highest interest ones. The latter would make more mathematical sense but his goal is to get people enthusiastic and feeling like they can do this so for psychological reasons he chooses to do it the way he does.
Leahy is not practical at all. No talk of budgets here. But that is not the goal of his book. His aim is to talk about the sovereignty of God. And along the way he manages, in this one chapter alone, to make most of the good, biblical points one can make about finances. Plus, as with his other books on demons, I find his writing very comforting. Here then is what Leahy has to say:
God provides for His children:
“He knows that we have physical needs and he supplies them. He knows what we need before we ask him (Matt. 6:8).” (p. 42)
Therefore God does not need us to ask, but He commands us to and uses our prayers to fulfill His purposes:
“God uses the prayers that the Holy Spirit prompts to fulfil his purposes.” (p. 44)
We are to work for our provisions:
“It is truly impressive how the Bible stresses the need to work in order to have food and clothing and in order to sustain our earthly life.” (p.49)
But while we are not to be lazy, we are also not to worry:
“There is a marked difference between sloth and anxiety about the future.” (p. 49)
I particularly liked this point because I felt that FPU tends to make one anxious and in his first lecture Mr. Ramsey even seems to say that those who are not worried are idiots.
Wealth is often accompanied by sinful behaviors and we must be careful that we do not steal in more subtle ways, perhaps by not working our full hours:
“But what God has ordained, Satan opposes. In commercial and financial circles, and often at the highest level, we hear of dishonesty and corruption. Shoddy workmanship is not uncommon and amounts to stealing, as does time-wasting and deception on the part of laborers.” (pp. 50-51)
It is incumbent upon those who are able to seek work:
“But the unemployed should be constantly on the lookout for fresh employment. State aid, though beneficial should never be seen as a cushion upon which the remainder of one’s life should rest.” (p. 51)
But some are truly in need, and these we should seek to help:
“God’s providence often uses human agents to provide for the needy, the sick, and the destitute . . . Where there is no feeling heart, there is no helping hand. This sin of omission stems from a hard heart.” (p. 54)
Nonetheless God does provide wealth to some,though with it comes a temptation to neither thank nor rely on God:
“God does provide wealth to some by ‘lawful’ means. But sinful man sees all wealth as his right. Yet God’s word to Israel was clear: Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth . . .’ (Deut. 8:17-18)” (p. 59)
Therefore we are to use our wealth in ways that glorify God:
“When God gives wealth, there is always the accompanying responsibility of stewardship, how to use that wealth to the glory of God.” (p. 60)
Finally, Leahy warns against some modern pitfalls and cautions us to be content with what God gives and not to strive after great wealth:
“The ‘health and wealth gospel’, popular in some circles, results from a serious misinterpretation of Scripture; it is also foreign to the teaching of Christ, and panders unashamedly to man’s covetousness. The Christian should pray, ‘Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me’, i.e. suitable for my need (Prov. 3:8). Where is the Christian’s witness if his lifestyle is akin to that of the grasping worldling?” (p. 60)
I hate to attribute too much to Dave Ramsey when I don’t know the man, but I will say that his book and course seem to make one want to focus a lot on accumulating wealth. It is very refreshing to me to hear Leahy’s take on it. His book may not help much for one who really needs practical advice on how to make a budget and get out of debt. But it does something perhaps more important, it puts our focus where it should be and gives a biblical view of what our attitude to money should be.