If you want to make some money in life, go find a way to serve somebody.
Today’s world economy is complex and multifaceted, and it would be easy to talk about the subtleties of money and finance for days. And though there is plenty of interesting stuff to discover, the world’s most fundamental financial principle is this: Money comes from serving people. And that’s the way God designed it.
I believe that God intends for us to be prosperous and to use the resources that He entrusts us with to bless other people and make the world a better place. If we’re going to be successful with using money in the Kingdom of God, though, we need to have a real, thorough understanding of the basic principles of money and wealth. Today, we’re going to start by examining the relationship between money and servanthood.
Too many people, including Christians, view money with suspicion. We consider it a dark force in the world, a necessary evil that we must grapple with, but never really enjoy. In the western world, we sometimes feel ashamed of the amount of wealth we have, or even feel that we should apologize for having money. But that’s not what God intended at all. Money is nothing to be ashamed of — it’s actually a symbol that we’ve been doing good in the world.
Understanding money is really all about figuring out where it comes from. When you think about where money comes from, you may come up with a variety of different answers. Money comes from work; money comes from education; money comes from investing; money comes from good ideas, etc. There is truth in all of those ideas, but there is one idea more fundamental than all of those. In its most basic sense, money comes from serving other people.
I’m certainly not the first person to point this out, but I’m going to work through this concept because I think it’s really important that people understand it. Money is not a commodity or an entity in itself; it’s not a limited resource. Rather, money is a marker that we use in society to help us keep track of how much we’ve done to help other people, and how much other people are doing to help us.
Let’s look at a hypothetical scenario. Say that you’ve been marooned on a desert island all alone. On that island, you find everything you need to survive indefinitely — a fresh water source, abundant food, shelter, etc. You can live there alone for the rest of your natural days. You gather what you need to eat every day. Do you need to pay anyone for what you gather? Of course not. In fact, if you live alone in total isolation, you have no need for money at all.
Now, if there are two of you on the island, life may get a little more complicated, but not by much. You can probably accomplish a lot more with a teammate — build a better shelter, hunt or gather more efficiently, etc. It’s going to take a lot of hard work from both of you in order to survive. But since there are only two people, there’s still not a need for currency. After all, the only thing you could do with it would be to trade it back and forth with each other — a rather pointless exercise.
Now, let’s expand the scenario. This time, there are ten people on the island. With that many people, there is a potential to accomplish much more than you could with one or two, but there are also many more mouths to feed. There will also be a variety of skills among the group — one person may excel at fishing while another becomes a great shelter builder, and some others dig wells or make clothes. For your little island community to thrive, it’s going to be necessary for everyone to work hard and do their part to contribute to the well-being of the others. But how do you compare the contributions of the fisherman to the contributions of the thatcher? Is the well-digger pulling his weight? What about the rest of the community?
In this scenario, we begin to see a real use for some kind of currency. Every time one member of the community does something to help another member, or to benefit the group as a whole, they receive a token to represent the work they’ve done. They can then pass that token on to someone who does something to help them. With a system of money in place, you don’t have to worry about who is pulling their weight and who is slacking off. Money tells the story — the more you help people on the island, the more money you’re going to get. The more money you have, the more you can get people to help you.
Now, in our world of more than 6 billion people, you can see how money is absolutely essential for society to thrive. And although the scale of our modern economies is much larger than the desert island community, the principle remains the same: The only real way to get money in our world is to help somebody. Money comes when we serve other people. Think about it — when you go to work, you’re helping people in some way or another. Waiters and flight attendants help people, doctors and nurses help people, construction workers, engineers and accountants help people. Police officers, city administrators, pastors, programmers and everyone else — all of the work we do in life will ultimately help other people with something. Your job may require you to help many people in very small ways, or to spend a lot of time to make big differences in the lives of just a few people. But either way, you’re serving people for a living, be it directly or indirectly. And that’s where your money comes from.
When we understand this, we see that money isn’t something to be ashamed of at all — financial success actually means that you have been successful in serving people. In fact, the more people you serve, the more money you’re going to have.
God wants us to be prosperous because He wants us to serve each other. The more we serve, the more prosperous we’ll be. And although this concept may strike you as new, it’s actually been right in front of you all along. Remember what Jesus said in Mark 9:35 — if anyone wants to be great, he must be the servant of all.
Photo by Gemma Bardsley. Used under Creative Commons License.