LIVING IN GOD'S ECONOMY
A BA interview with Crown Funancial Ministries CEO Chuck Bentley
For 34 years, Crown Financial Ministries has been a leader in
providing biblical instruction on acquiring, spending, investing,
and giving material resources.
Chuck Bentley resides near Atlanta, Georgia.
BA: Speak to those who, at least on paper, have lost from 10 to
50 percent of their life savings, and perhaps their jobs, this
last year. In view of the current economic uncertainty, what
longrange plans should people make?
CB: Thank you for the opportunity to speak to your readers. With
soaring unemployment, the Wall Street meltdown, declining home
values, record foreclosures, and the erosion of the dollar's
global purchasing power, we have reason to be concerned. In view
of these events and the resulting uncertainty we face, I
recommend that Christians take this simple action: Reset your
spiritual and financial values in God's economy, not man's. Man's
economy will lead to disappointment, but living in God's economy
will never disappoint us (Hebrews 13:5,6).
Viewing our circumstances in light of the economic plan God has
established, we see Christ as our chief treasure; therefore, we
can lose money but not true riches. This may seem too simplistic,
but the loss of earthly treasures evokes strong and powerful
forces of fear and anxiety that lead to stress, depression, and
despair. Those who can see that they are not owners but temporary
stewards can experience contentment and joy in the midst of this
uncertain economy and our personal circumstances.
We also need to reset our financial values to become wise and
faithful with what we have, whether much or little, instead of
defining our lives by outward success and accumulation of wealth.
This will free us to pursue economic goals such as living beneath
our means, eliminating debt, saving for the future, avoiding
highly speculative risks, and living generously.
Over the long term, Christians who live in harmony with the
forces of God's economy are in a position to serve the needs of
those hurt by man's economy. Further, they will be prepared for
hearing "Well done, good and faithful servant." This great battle
has come into even clearer contrast in the past 18 months as
financial empires in man's economy have collapsed before our very
BA: Some Christians think this recession is part of God's endtime
plan leading to world collapse and Armageddon; others think we'll
pull out of it. What's your perspective?
CB: A record number of Americans consider the economy to be our
greatest problem. Most are not quite sure when this pain will
end, where we're headed, or what to do about it. I think this
will only grow over the next twelve to eighteen months as
Adding to our angst, the U.S. government recently loaned billions
of dollars to bail out, or stimulate, the economy. When the
federal government becomes the lender of last resort, the
taxpayer takes on another financial burden, and stress on the
next generation increases. President Obama was quoted as saying,
"Our federal debt is unsustainable ... we are mortgaging our
A friend of mine says, "When the good credit of the United States
government is finally exhausted and the nation defaults to our
creditors, Financial Armageddon will begin." Personally I don't
think we are headed there just yet. However, the present shocks
and tremors are early warning signs that we must change - now! To
prepare for more difficult days ahead, Christians should be
living in God's economy.
With political leaders calling for a move from the dollar to a
single global currency and with a unified global financial policy
that governs the world's largest economies, I believe we are
witnessing prophetic signs. The world is rapidly realigning, and
we need to be aware of and sensitive to it. But I do not want to
overreach and attempt to interpret these signs or assume the role
of a prophet.
Paul, however, linked our attitude about money and possessions to
the end times:
"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.
People will be Lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful,
proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy
..." (2 Timothy 3:1,2, NIV).
BA: What do you say to Christian Americans about our materialism
and when to say enough is enough?
CB: By financial standards, Americans are wealthy. One half of
the world's population lives on less than the equivalent of
$2/day in America; over a billion people live on less than $1/
day. We are the upper class of the world's nations. If we are
controlled by the forces of man's economy, we become ensnared by
our endless pursuit of comfort and the next big thing.
Our gross domestic product is now fueled by consumer spending,
not industrial output. Our spending on leisure, recreation, and
entertainment is roughly twice that of our charitable giving.
Just 60 years ago, the average household size was about 250 sq.
ft. per person; last year, it peaked at about 1,000 sq. ft. per
person under the roof of a singlefamily dwelling. This is a clear
indicator of the constant quest for more.
As we Christians reset our spiritual and financial priorities, we
can find contentment in what we have, set a standard of living
consistent with our purpose to serve others, and live generously.
BA: Some say that Christians in America average giving under
three percent of income to charitable causes, including the
church. Is this accurate?
CB: There are conflicting surveys regarding this statistic, but
in general this number is accurate. It says that although total
giving in this country is enormous - approaching $300 billion per
year - our charitable giving as a percentage of gross annual
income is anemic. Based upon 52 weeks of earned income per year,
we donate just one week per year. Particularly troubling are
surveys indicating roughly one-third of self-identified
Christians give no money to their church.
Numerous factors contribute to this issue. Foremost, spiritual
immaturity prevents believers from understanding that our Lord is
generous to us. David expressed it this way:
"But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to
give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we
have given you only what comes from your hand" (1 Chronicles
Second, lifestyle bondage prevents us from having the financial
margin to give without fear of compromising repayment of debts.
When spiritual maturity and financial freedom are both present in
our lives, cheerful, transformational generosity will be the
resulting fruit. As good stewards, we should prioritize this
objective as the highest and best expression of our love for God.
God's love is the most powerful force in His economy, and our
generosity is the best expression of His love. We are called to
give to perpetuate His church, to serve needs in the body with a
special tenderness toward the poor and suffering. These are our
privileges and the bases for our future rewards.
BA: What links have you noted between one's material wealth and
the vitality of his/her faith?
CB: I've had opportunity to teach truth about God's economy
around the world. In my travels I've met faithful Christians who,
financially, are among the world's poorest and the world's
richest. From those living on survival's edge and trusting Christ
for their daily bread to those worth a billion dollars or more,
seeking to give away all they own for God's glory. Spiritual
maturity is not related to material wealth, and God's servants
are found throughout every economic stratum. However, God's Word
speaks to your question directly on both ends of the financial
James 2:5 teaches us to esteem the poor for their understanding
of true riches: "Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen
those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith
and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?"
(NIV). I have found this to be the case. Often those who have
very little in the world's eyes have a deep, abiding faith in
Christ because so little competes for their time and affections.
Their faith and spiritual fervor have been humbling and inspiring
Also, I have observed the practical truth of these words:
"The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the
man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the
deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful" (Matthew
In man's economy, material wealth is a powerful competitor for
our total affection and dependency upon Christ. It can choke the
seeds of God's Word and prevent His fruit from growing.
BA: What advice do you offer younger readers - in college or
ready to enter the work force?
CB: Discover the mysterious yet practical experience of living in
God's economy. This will lead you to seek to fulfill His purposes
through your life and keep you from the traps and ensnarement of
man's economy. You will know you have made the transition when
you are spiritually renewed, stewarding wisely, and living
generously. This is God's plan, and I can offer no greater
encouragement to you in your journey.
To contact Crown, visit www.crown.org.
From "The Bible Advocate" - July-August 2009 - a publication of
the Church of God, Seventh Day, Denver, CO. USA
To be continued with "What You Don't Know About Job Loss."