Approaching finances as a Christian can be a confusing journey for many. We can receive mixed messages depending on what teaching we have been exposed to. Some say God wants us to prosper financially in this life, whereas others emphasise that money is the ‘root of all evil’. If you are a business owner, you may have some unresolved questions around what a godly attitude should be towards wealth.
Does God want you to create wealth in your business and personally? If so, how can you do this with integrity and honouring God and your neighbours? For direction, we can learn some helpful principles towards wealth creation by studying the Jews and their culture.
The Jewish Approach
It is hard to find positive role models when it comes to ethical wealth creation. The media often highlights greedy bank executives and corporate tax cheats to illustrate that generating wealth and caring for the needs of the community are mutually exclusive goals. The Jewish approach to creating wealth strongly suggests this doesn’t have to be the case.
As a nation, Jews have been oppressed throughout history—some would say more than any other people group in the world. Although this has not stopped them from being one of the most financially prosperous and community focused ethnoreligious races. Much of their success is not achieved by just generating wealth, but also appropriately stewarding the responsibilities that invariably come along with it such as caring for the needs of the poor and disenfranchised.
The Jewish approach to success is not just generating wealth – but being good stewards. (Photo by Ulu_Bird/Shutterstock.com)
The Jews believe that wealth is a consequence or a measurable outcome of how much a person is serving God’s people and their community. It is a sign of good stewardship and that they are taking an active interest in caring for the physical needs of those around them. In Hebrew, words of significance mean the opposite when read backwards. When read backwards, the word wealth in Hebrew means evil. Therefore, in Jewish culture if you are not creating wealth you are creating evil instead— a frightening prospect indeed!
Debunking the myth
Here are three Jewish principles on generating wealth that debunks the myth that wealth creation is sinful of itself.
Principle 1: God created us to be interdependent
Prosperity doctrine says let me create wealth so I can be happy and enjoy my riches. This is a very individualistic view of wealth and ignores the fact that we live in a broader community that deserves our attention and concern.
The Hebraic perspective is that God has created us to be interdependent by entrusting different talents and abilities to people. When Jacob blessed his twelve sons, he was very specific in giving each tribe a speciality—that way they would learn to serve each other and be interdependent. Specialisation is God’s design to bring about relationship amongst His children as we each live out our God-given purpose and destiny.
The Mishnah, or the “Oral Torah” for the Jews suggests that no two people are alike, encouraging individuals to make the unique contribution that only they can make. Jewish writer and Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl was aware of this truth when he wrote “Man’s Search for Meaning”:
Interdependence and relationship means having a genuine interest in others and staying interconnected. As we embrace our God given talents we are in a position to contribute effectively to society and generate wealth in the process. Be valuable to people and if a business is run well, money will flow to you as a natural consequence. It is an outcome of good work, not a motive to work.
Principle 2: God wants us to give financially
There is a strong theological foundation in Judaism for giving generously from the wealth generated in business. The Jewish concepts of tzedakah (charitable giving), tzedek (justice) and chesed (mercy and kindness) compels Jews to give philanthropically to local causes and overseas. This is reflected in annual giving statistics. According to Giving USA, the average annual Jewish household donates US$2,526 to charity annually, which is considerably higher than the average $1,749 that Protestant households donate or the $1,142 that their Catholic counterparts contribute.
The idea that owning wealth for Jews comes with it responsibilities dates to the Law of Moses where the paying of the tithe, a 10% religious tax, was an integral part of Jewish religious worship. This principle is vividly seen when God calls out the Israelites for not paying their full tithes and offerings. He challenges them in Malachi 3:10 (NIV) to test Him in this and do what was right by obeying the command in the famous passage:
This mindset of giving generously goes hand in hand with the fundamental belief held by Jews that you need to give first before you receive. In Jewish culture, if you want to be wealthy you need to give first. Sound familiar?
Principle 3: God wants us to create wealth
Jews are taught to conduct business honestly and with integrity. If you have a product or service that people want or need, then you are making the world a better place and you are supporting the wellbeing of those made in God’s image. The phrase in Hebrew is Tikun Olam—which means to repair our fractured world. As we work with God, we are seeing the restoration of His plans and purposes in our sphere of business influence.
Wealth creation in God’s Kingdom is about releasing greater flourishing in the created order. Wealth-generating work that is redemptive and embodies the Hebrew principle of Shalom – nothing broken and missing; creating new jobs, leading to innovation and positive transformation of society. Far from exploiting others, stewarding God-given wealth wisely can lift households, communities and nations out of poverty and fulfil Jesus’ commandment to “Love our neighbours as ourselves.” (Mark 12:31 NIV)
What does this all mean for a business owner?
As business owners we should be running our businesses with God-given purpose, using our unique skills and abilities to service God’s children and to make a positive contribution that no one else can make.
Distinct from our businesses being independent from God and others around us, a business that acknowledges God in all things by the way it serves His children through specialised products and services, giving generously of its profits to the needs of the local community and abroad, will thrive, not just merely survive in the marketplace. This can no better be articulated than in Deuteronomy 8:18 (NIV):
The journey before many business owners is to embrace God’s original intent for us to be stewards of His creation and His desire that we serve each other—His children and become co-labourers with Him.
About Darren Laudenbach
Darren Laudenbach has unique range of financial skills and experience that has helped him develop a range of courses and programs tailored to Christians.
Darren’s passion is to help Christian’s master their money – rather than being mastered by it. This has proven to lead households into a position of control of their finances and enjoy the peace of financial freedom. At the same time a good example is being set for children, friends and the community to emulate (salt & light).
Darren is a husband, a father of two daughters, investor, and business consultant. He is active in his local church as a Boys’ Brigade Officer, Former Church Treasurer & Board Member, and is involved with various community and youth projects.
Contact Darren: businessliftcoach.com.au