After we have paid our tithing and other financial obligations to the Church, does it really make much difference to the Lord how we spend the remainder?
Man is inclined to think of spiritual things as being separate from temporal things, and the management of anything as earthly as one’s personal income might easily be thought of as something independent of the soul’s eternal welfare. However, the scriptures teach that there is an inseparable connection between material things and spiritual blessings.
Earthly possessions are frequently mentioned in the scriptures. In Ecclesiastes we read that “riches and wealth” are a “gift of God.” (Eccl. 5:19.) And Jacob taught:
“… many of you have begun to search for gold, and for silver, and for all manner of precious ores, …
“And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasantly, that you have obtained many riches; and because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts, and … ye suppose that ye are better than they.
“Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.
“But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
“And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.” (Jacob 2:12–13, 17–19.)
The acquisition of material riches is not prohibited in the scriptures; however, there are instructions about how one should manage whatever he obtains.
When the rich man was “grieved” at the prospect of giving his “great possessions” to the poor, Jesus declared, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” This astonished the disciples, so Jesus explained, “… how hard it is for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:21–24. Italics added.)
It has also been observed: “There is a sore evil which I have seen … namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt” (Eccl. 5:13), because the possessors supposed “that gain is godliness” (1 Tim. 6:5). Paul also pointed out that it is not money per se, but “the love of money [that] is the root of all evil. …” (1 Tim. 6:10. Italics added.) Then he summarized the matter in writing to Timothy:
“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;
“That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;
“Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” (1 Tim. 6:17–19.)
Thus it is not the acquisition, but the trust and affection that men often put upon them, that adversely affects the soul, whereas the man with a “hope in Christ” uses his riches to the spiritual benefit of himself and those around him.
There is a saying that “you can’t take it with you.” Job said it this way: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither” (Job 1:21), while Paul wrote to Timothy, “… we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Tim. 6:7; see also Eccl. 5:14–16). Since we can’t take it with us, what we do with it while we are here becomes especially important.
There is a tendency for the rich to give gifts to the rich and neglect the poor. Of this the scripture says, “… he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want” (Prov. 22:16), but “He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack” (Prov. 28:27), and “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again” (Prov. 19:17).
“And Jesus said, “… if ye love them [only] which love you, what thank have ye? … And if ye do good [only] to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? … And if ye lend to them [only] of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.” (Luke 6:32–34.)
Apparently it is not how much, but the spirit in which a gift is given and the degree to which it is a sacrifice, that determines its acceptability to the Lord, for of the widow’s “two mites” he said, “… this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” (Mark 12:43–44.) For the “sacrifice shall be more sacred unto me than [the] increase, saith the Lord.” (D&C 117:13.)
Many have ability to acquire worldly riches, but not the power to retain them, “for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” (Prov. 23:5.) The Preacher observed that this situation was “common among men: a man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing … yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it. …” (Eccl. 6:1–2.) This could be the result of improper management.
Carelessness might lead to excessive debt, which is a type of bondage, for “the borrower is servant to the lender.” (Prov. 22:7.) Therefore, the Lord has said, “Behold, it is said in my laws, or forbidden, [for you] to get in debt to thine enemies.” (D&C 64:27.) Also, “… it is my will that you shall pay all your debts. And … that you … obtain this blessing by your diligence and humility. …” (D&C 104:78–79.)
We are instructed not to be wasteful: “Thou shalt be diligent in preserving what thou hast, that thou mayest be a wise steward; for it is the free gift of the Lord thy God, and thou art his steward” (D&C 136:27): for “he also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster” (Prov. 18:9). “Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. …” (2 Ne. 9:51.)
Man is not only forbidden to waste his earthly substance, but he is instructed to increase and develop it, as illustrated in the parables of the talents (Matt. 25:14–30) and the pounds (Luke 19:12–27).
And finally, “… it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepare for my creatures.” (D&C 104:13.)