Can faith and finances coexist?

Question: Why does the Church talk about finances? How is that relevant to the Faith?

Answer: I am often asked why the Church talks about money. There is a widespread view that our faith is separate from what we do with money. That way of thinking is flawed. It leads to financial decision-making based on faulty priorities, and it occurs across the spectrum of society — at individual, family, business and government levels. 

It’s not an overstatement to say that the failure to follow Christian principles of money management has contributed to, if not caused, the current financial crisis. Conversely, if we had adhered more closely to godly principles for managing our resources, both in attitude and practice, it is reasonable to conclude that the crisis would either not have occurred at all, or its negative effects would have been greatly diminished.  

Using your gifts wisely  

The Church exists to share Christ with the world, and the fact is, Christ had a lot to say about money. There are hundreds of references to money in the Bible. Jesus used money and possessions as themes in half of his parables. Why did he speak of money so often? Because he knows money and possessions have a way of interfering in our relationship with him and with those around us. 

Jesus wants to hold a special place in our lives. He loves us and desires our love in return. He shows us how to love him and our brothers and sisters through his words and his actions. If Christ felt it was so important to teach his disciples about money, the Church has a duty to convey those same principles today. Far from being separate, faith and finances are intimately linked.  

In writing on the role of the lay faithful in Christifideles Laici , Pope John Paul II said, “There cannot be two parallel lives in their existence: on the one hand, the so-called ‘spiritual’ life, with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called ‘secular’ life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social relationships, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture.” By proclaiming Christ’s example and teaching on money, the Church helps us understand how to use the gifts and resources the Lord has entrusted to us wisely. 

Balanced sensibilities 

What does the wisdom of the Lord reveal when discussing money’s role in our lives? It uncovers a beautiful tapestry that leads to balanced sensibilities for how we should think about money and act with it. Here are some of the key principles, with a few references to Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I encourage you to open your Bible and Catechism and read the references: 

  • We need to look to God for true wisdom (Is 55:8-9). 
  • Our ultimate goal is eternal life with God (Jn 3:16; Mt 6:24). 
  •  All we have comes from God and ultimately belongs to him (Dt 10:14). 
  •  We have a responsibility to create wealth and use it for good ends (Catechism, No. 2402). 
  •  We are to be generous with God and neighbor (Mal 3:7-10; Mt 25:35-40). 
  •  Our work is to be done as unto the Lord (Catechism, No. 2427). 
  • We are called to grow in virtue and minimize vices in our lives (Phil 4:8; Catechism, Nos. 1803, 1866). 
  • Saving for future obligations is an expected part of responsible financial management (Prv 21:20). 
  •  Debt, if used, is to be utilized with a cautious attitude and toward productive ends (Prv 22:7). 

In summary, if we are faithful to the principles for managing resources that the Lord has revealed to us, we can be confident that our financial lives will be in balance. We will be the stewards of Providence that the Lord wants us to be. God love you! 

Phil Lenahan is the president of Veritas Financial Ministries (VeritasFinancialMinistries.com) and the author of “7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free” (OSV, $19.95). Submit questions for columns to askphil@osv.com.