“Let your life be a stepping stone to Christ and not a stumbling block.” 1 Cor. 8:13 & 10:31

"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify God who is in heaven." Matt. 5:16

The Number One Financial Mistake

By Austin Pryor

An approach we occasionally use in marketing my organization, Sound Mind Investing (SMI), is to ask, "What is the No. 1 financial mistake many Christians make?" Our answer: They ignore biblical principles when managing their money and follow advice from other sources instead.

Do you believe that when you use God's protective biblical principles as a guide, you will manage your money more wisely and prudently - and glorify God at the same time? I do, because I have lived it. From the early 1970s through the mid-'80s, I relied primarily on my innate skills and intellect for making financial and investing decisions. My successes were many, but my failures were more.

In the late 1980s, I faced up to my limitations and turned to the teachings of my friend, Larry Burkett, who had become a leading voice in the evangelical community on the importance of followers of Jesus applying biblical principles for managing their finances. Aligning with God's ways laid a foundation for future financial success I experienced and continues to shape the work we do at SMI.

We all must learn to set financial priorities that honor God and point toward the attainment of God-given goals. For managing our finances, conducting ourselves at work, or being the people we should be in our homes, I have discovered the things worth knowing are, first and foremost, rooted in God's Word, the Bible. As it states, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). We should look primarily to God's wisdom, not the conventional wisdom, for practical principles to guide our decision-making. Here are some examples:

Our responsibility. We must each accept personal responsibility for making knowledgeable, biblically consistent financial decisions. We cannot expect others to make the tough choices for us. "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:2).

Our financial freedom. Debt can be enslaving, so we should avoid it as much as possible. "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a servant to the lender" (Proverbs 22:7).

Our balance. Maintaining a proper balance between current spending and long-term saving requires wisdom. "In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has" (Proverbs 21:20).

Our decision-making. We should consistently invest using a carefully considered strategy rather than by making impulsive choices. "The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty" (Proverbs 21:5).

Our motives. We must guard against greed, wasting energy in futile attempts to get the highest possible returns. "Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint" (Proverbs 23:4).

As we "renew our minds" with these guiding principles, we can apply them to our day-to-day financial decisions we each face. If we follow them consistently, we can be confident we are making wise choices for spending, saving, and investing.

Austin Pryor has 36 years of experience advising investors, and is the founder of the Sound Mind Investing newsletter and website. He is the author of The Sound Mind Investing Handbook. Austin lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with Susie, his wife of 50 years.