Study Guide: In God We Trust

Sunday March 14, 2010 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

In week two of our “Kingdom Economics” series, Greg answers three questions that were submitted by the congregation and podrishioners. 1) Does having a savings account show a lack of faith in God? 2) Does saving for retirement show a lack of trust in God? 3) Is declaring bankruptcy a sin?

Extended Summary:

In February of 2010, the US Treasury Department reported a deficit of 220.9 billion dollars for just that one month. This is a new record and exceeds the previous record by 14%. This is clear evidence that America as a whole is living on credit. Our government is spending money it doesn’t have and most Americans are doing the same. This is not about politics, it’s a cultural phenomenon. Carrying huge debt loads is not the way kingdom people are supposed to handle finances. As Proverbs 22:7 says, “…the borrower is servant to the lender.” Debt is a form of bondage and we all do well to work our way out of debt and avoid taking on more as best we can.

We need to get honest with our selves and those close to us about our financial health and support one another in making decisions that move toward financial freedom. Our money is not our own but we are stewards of God’s resources. As we break free from debt we can become better stewards of God’s money and invest it as we feel led in the various things God is doing all around us!

We’ve gotten lots of good practical questions from our congregation in response to last week’s message. This week Greg responded to these three:

1. Does having a savings account show a lack of trust in God?
This question arises when we read a passage like Matt. 6:33-34 which says “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” Greg pointed out that the main point here is that putting the kingdom first should relieve us from worrying about the future. Anxiety and worry are things that get in the way of our relationship with God. This passage doesn’t contradict what the Bible teaches in other places about wisely preparing for the future (see Prov. 6:6-8, 21:20, etc.). In these proverbs, it is clear that the wise person has the discipline to delay gratification and consider the future whereas the fool wants everything now without a thought for later on.

In laying out the general principles we find in the Bible, Greg quoted John Wesley as saying:

“Make as much as you can.
Save as much as you can.
Give as much as you can.”

2. Does saving for retirement show a lack of trust in God?
Greg pointed us to the parable found in Luke 12:15, 18-21 (read this out loud in your group). Saving the money for the future wasn’t the problem, as we saw in the previous question, but hoarding the resources for himself and planning to take it easy for the rest of his life was not what Jesus has in mind. Greg challenged the idea that Christians should treat the last 30 years of their lives like permanent vacations. No, we are kingdom people to the end and life isn’t over until it is over. Rather than coasting to the end on permanent vacation, Greg challenged us to lean in and finish the race strong! Keep seeking the kingdom! Keep loving your neighbors! Keep ministering and using your gifts! It may be that quitting your job becomes possible and desirable (and eventually necessary!) for you but don’t quit being an active member of the kingdom of God!

3. Is declaring bankruptcy a sin?
Bankruptcy is a legal way of saying that you cannot pay your debts and the result is that the person in bankruptcy is able to keep some assets and start over again. Those who lent to this person end up losing most or all of the money they lent. Greg focused on the question of intent. It is always a sin to borrow money without intending to pay it back. That’s not borrowing, that’s stealing. Jesus tells us to let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no”. That is just basic honesty. But sometimes things happen that are beyond our control and the money we intended to pay back is completely out of our reach. In extreme cases, bankruptcy may be the “least bad” of the options left. This all points back to the main message which is:

It is wise to avoid dept as much as possible! (recall Prov. 22:7)

Reflection Questions:

  1. What stood out to you most from this message and the supporting text?
  2. In the question about saving for the future, what is the difference between worrying about the future and planning for it? How is our relationship with God different in these two states of mind?
  3. Greg challenged the “normal” idea of retirement in America. He asserted that Christians may decide to quit their jobs, but they should never retire from working for the kingdom. Do you agree with this? What do you hope for in the last 30 years of your life? How does that fit with Greg’s message?
  4. Greg focused on honesty and integrity when it comes to responding to the question about bankruptcy. In some cases, it may be the least bad option. Do you agree?
  5. How can we as a community encourage and challenge one another during this short series on finances? Are there creative ways that we can support each other as we strive to be freed from debt and more available for kingdom work?