It’s just incredible what old books can teach us about anything. On top of this, history tends to repeat itself. So if you want to learn about the future, just look at the past. That’s exactly what this post is all about. It’s from a book of which some parts are over 3.000 years old. It surprised me that I would learn anything about money and investing from this book. Let’s find out.
You probably already guessed it…
It’s the Bible. It’s 66 books strong and was written, inspired by God, by over 35 different people over a period of about 1.500 years.
Some authors were kings, judges, prophets, fishermen, shepherds, a tax collector, a physician, a cupbearer of an ancient Persian King, musicians, etc. Many of whom lived in completely different time periods and didn’t know each other at all.
“Please, Chipmunk, I’m here to learn about finance, not about some old and dusty book that has no relevance for me today.”
I think you should reconsider that point of view. The Bible is a collection of books that describes life in all the ups and all the downs. It’s about this life and about the next.
Obviously, money is an essential part of life whether or not we like it. So, does the Bible also cover money and investing? It sure does. A lot actually. It talks both about the benefits as the negatives of money.
“Chipmunk, should I just skip this blog post and wait for another one? Or should I continue reading? Is it worth my valuable time?”
Yes, I think you should really continue reading. What’s the worst that could happen? You read something about an old book? You read about something you already knew? There are worse things you could do to spend your time. Cat videos anyone?
Before we dive in, some context so you know what to expect
First, I will share a story about entrepreneurship and money management. Yes, it’s from the Bible.
Second, I will share a story about debt and that you should use it wisely. You guessed it, also from the Bible.
Third, I will cover some ancient wisdom from The Bible that sometimes may seem somewhat obvious, but show deeper knowledge than you would expect.
Last, I will take a closer look about the biblical purpose of money and how money should be perceived. At least, how the Bible and I perceive it.
The parable of the three servants
Matthew 25:14-30 describes this story. It’s a story about money and investing and this story is told by Jesus Himself.
There was a man that went on a journey and entrusted his property to 3 servants. One servant received 5 talents, another 2 and another one 1. Each servant received the talents according to their ability.
The net worth of that man would be $11.2 million today
A talent in today’s value would be about $1.4 million. This is an insane amount of money. Can you imagine entrusting $7 million to just one servant?!
After the man went on his journey these 3 servants decided for themselves what to do. When the master returned, each of these 3 servants made an account for what they’ve done with the property they have received.
The servant that received 5 talents had an entrepreneurial spirit and worked and traded in the master’s absence. As a result, he had doubled the talents he had received.
The servant that received 2 talents did exactly the same and also doubled his talents.
However, the third servant was afraid for his master and hid his property in the ground.
When the master saw what his servants had done with what he had entrusted them, he was thrilled with the first and second servants that doubled their property. But, he was furious with what the third servant had done.
The master says this: “You fool! If you were afraid for me then you should have placed my property at a bank. When I returned I would have received my property with interest”.
What does the bible say about investing in this story?
This part of the bible says you should invest your money. In case you are not sure or if you are afraid to lose your money, you can place it at a bank. But that’s the least favorable option.
Story about an unforgiving debtor
Another story about money is told in Matthew 18:21-35.
This story is all about forgiveness. Someone who followed Jesus asked Him how often you should forgive someone who wronged you (short answer: infinitely). He illustrates this with a story about a King who had many people that had borrowed money from him.
One debtor was brought in and had borrowed 10.000 talents. That’s about $1.4 billion! That’s an insane amount of money. The debtor asked the king:
“Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all. Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.”
Handle debt with care
Interestingly, it does not say ‘the king’ but ‘his master’. This is such an important aspect to take away. If you owe someone money, especially if it’s a significant amount of money, that person becomes your master!
Debt can be a wonderful tool but if not handled with care it becomes extremely dangerous and it will enslave you.
After that man was just released from $1.4 billion in debt, he walks away and finds a man that owes him about $10,000. This happened next:
He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened.
Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
So what does the bible say about debt?
If you are not careful, the person, company or bank you borrowed money from will become your master. Be careful and if you are in the position of power, be kind and understanding and forgiving.
That doesn’t mean you are weak. Just as the king had enormous power as the servant endured both in a positive as negative sense. It means that you keep control of your power and have compassion with people around you.
Wisdom from the Bible
Below I listed 25 verses from the Bible that directly or indirectly speak about business, investing and money. This gives some idea about the answer on this question: What does the Bible say about investing and wealth?
And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”Luke 12:15
Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.Proverbs 13:11
Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.Proverbs 22:16
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.Proverbs 22:1
In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.Proverbs 14:23
Every prudent man acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly.Proverbs 13:16
Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.Proverbs 11:28
Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.Proverbs 15:22
Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.Proverbs 21:17
Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.Proverbs 21:20
The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.Proverbs 22:7
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.Proverbs 21:5
Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.Proverbs 23:4-5
The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.Proverbs 10:22
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.Proverbs 3:27
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.Proverbs 11:4
Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.Proverbs 28:8
Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.Ecclesiastes 11:1-2
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.Ecclesiastes 5:10
But the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.Mark 4:19
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.1 Timothy 6:17-19
Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.Proverbs 22:9
Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.Proverbs 14:31
Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household, but he who hates bribes will live.Proverbs 15:27
Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.Proverbs 1:19
Is this a complete overview to answer: what does the bible says about investing? No, not at all. However, this brief collection of verses does give some insight in the minds of these writers that lived even as long as 3000 years ago. Some things never change.
The most important lesson: do not strive to become rich!
This seems completely at odds with the purpose of this blog. In part, this is true. It’s not that that it’s wrong to be rich. It’s just utterly foolish to set your heart on something that can be taken away from you in the blink of an eye.
It’s not for no reason that that Bible says: “The love of money is the root of all kinds evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). The love for money can totally destroy you. It can make you love it more than family and friends. More than anything in life.
The love of money as depicted in The Hobbit: The Battle of the five armies
You’ve probably all seen the Hobbit Trilogy. In the last part of the trilogy, Thorin Oakenshield has taken possession of the mountain and all the wealth that can be found in it, it completely consumes him. He doesn’t trust anyone anymore, even his closest friends. He only worries about people trying to take it all from him.
The scenes in that movie are the most vivid and explicit in showing the love of money and its effect on yourself and the people close to you, that I can think of.
What roles does money play in your life?
It’s wise to think about what role money plays in your life. Has the road to reach financial freedom and the money you need already consumed you, or do you treasure the things in life that are truly important? Is money a tool or do you want it to obtain some sort of status?
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (…) No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”Matthew 6:19-21, 24