Is true financial well-being more than getting out of debt and accumulating wealth? How does the Bible offer holistic financial pathways that lead you to a place of increased awareness and confidence toward the way God wants you to handle money?
Bible Gateway interviewed Tommy Brown (@tommythebrown) about his book, The Seven Money Types: Discover How God Wired You To Handle Money (Zondervan, 2017).
According to a recent survey, nearly 7 in 10 Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. And another survey says the average household with credit card debt has balances totaling more than $16,000. What does this say about how the average person handles money?
Tommy Brown: People struggle financially for many different reasons, and some are simply doing the very best they can while managing enormous expenses (for example, medical bills, caring for an aging parent, tuition for a child, healthcare insurance, etc.). My hope is that whether a person has very little in the bank or enormous material wealth, they can learn to live more intentionally financially, to align their desires with their actions; and this comes in part by embracing your God-designed money type. Many people have a very low awareness of why they do what they do with their money, and an understanding of your biblical money type helps with this.
You write that God has designed each person in one of seven ways to handle money. How did you arrive at the conclusion?
Tommy Brown: While ministering to families in the area of financial stewardship over the course of 14 years, I recognized the same seven types of money motivations and patterns arising over and again. We read in Genesis 1:26-30 that God created humans in his image, and gave them stewardship over creation and its resources. Based on this belief, my question became whether the way we’re designed in God’s image impacts the way we steward resources, including money. These patterns must come from somewhere, and I believe we find our best and deepest desires flowing from God. When I discovered in the Jewish tradition that seven aspects of what it means to be made in God’s image are represented by seven biblical characters, and that each of these biblical characters related to resources in one of the seven ways I was seeing playing out in the people around me, the dots began to connect.
What are the seven biblical money types?
Tommy Brown: The seven biblical money types are seven ways that people instinctively think, feel, and act financially. These seven types are represented in Scripture: Abraham (hospitality), Isaac (discipline/maximization), Jacob (beauty), Joseph (connection), Moses (endurance/order), Aaron (humility, and David (leadership). As you read their stories, it’s fascinating to view the ways they handle resources through this lens. When you see these same seven types at play today, you realize that we’re part of an ongoing story to bring God’s love into the world through our stewardship.
What is financial well-being?
Tommy Brown: Financial well-being, in my opinion, is the ability to handle resources in a way that’s true to our deepest sense of self while maintaining healthy financial thoughts, emotions, and attitudes. There are people who have very little money who are greedy, while others who are poor are very much at ease internally. Then, there are those who are wealthy who are deeply joyful in their relationship to money, and others who are rich who are anxious and greedy.
When we unearth, understand, and unleash how God designed us to handle money, financial well-being then goes deeper, and whether you have much or little, you recognize why you think the ways you do about money, which helps you relate to it, and spend it, in a way that is congruent with your deepest sense of delight. We will be able to say with Paul, “I have learned the secret of being content” (Phil. 4:12).
You focus on seven men of the Bible whose characters reveal one of the seven aspects of what it means to be made in God’s image. Select one of the seven and explain that for us here.
Tommy Brown: Abraham is well known as the man who represented what it means to be hospitable. It’s likely Abraham whom the book of Hebrews holds up as a model for this attribute (Heb. 13:2). We see in Abraham’s life this inclination to use resources in hospitable ways. Consider the time when the three visitors came to his tent and he promised them some water and a little something to eat (Gen. 18). By the time he was done, he and his wife delivered a full-course meal. Abraham types are those who view money as a way to make others feel special and noticed. Like Abraham, they under-promise and over-deliver. Their first thought with money is always other people, how they can show them love by the way money is used.
You write that each of the seven money types has a shadow side. What do you mean?
Tommy Brown: We all have areas where we can grow financially, and while each of the seven biblical money types are inherently good, each has a shadow side that can derail even the best of intentions. For example, the shadow side of an Abraham type is self-sufficiency. If you follow Abraham’s story, you’ll notice that it was very tough to give this man anything. Abraham types will go above and beyond with money for everyone else, but if you try to do something for them, they’ll do whatever they can to deflect your generosity. This shadow side can lead to self-neglect.
How much did Jesus talk about money and how would you summarize his themes on the subject?
Tommy Brown: Some scholars would say that Jesus talked about money as a topic more than any other. I don’t think that he did this because he was focused on money, but rather because he was focused on the heart, and understood that the ways people think, feel, and act financially show us something about what is going on in their hearts (Mt. 6:21). Look at how you handle money and you’re looking at some of the desires of your heart being expressed.
How do you hope your book will influence your readers?
Tommy Brown: My hope is that readers will realize that money doesn’t have to be a shameful or stressful topic. This book helps diffuse a lot of that tension because it’s one that anybody—rich or poor—can pick up and better understand their relationship to finances. It’s of particular importance for engaged and married couples because it positions them to understand not only their own money type, but also their loved one’s money type. When this happens, they’ll stand a far greater chance of being on the same page with money, and can grow together toward shared financial goals with a greater sense of unity. Money types can lead to money fights, or they can lead to a relationship with money that is deeply meaningful, one that allows you to chase God’s dreams.
What if you don’t like your money type (or your spouse’s money type)?
Tommy Brown: The only reason a person would not like their money types is if they’ve been taught that it was bad, which is saying that God does poor work. Regarding our spouse’s money type, we have to begin with the fundamental belief that all seven are good and that all seven teach us something about God. You’re going to experience friction with other types. The first step is seeking to understand what’s motivating that person, and from there to take steps his or her way, while inviting them to do the same.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?
Tommy Brown: Bible Gateway has been a constant companion for me over my years in ministry. In addition to the other resources it affords, I’m always able to find the passage I’m looking for, and in any translation I need. It’s my go-to resource for quick reference.
Bio: Tommy Brown is a writer and speaker, and develops strategies that support financial development. He and his wife Elizabeth live in Winston-Salem, NC, along with their children Seri and Seth. He served in leadership at two churches as an ordained minister from 2001-2014, leading congregations into financial wellbeing and a holistic approach to integrating faith and finances. Tommy has a BA in Pastoral Ministry and Masters degrees in Divinity and Management. His entrepreneurial endeavors over the years have extended into real estate development and church consulting on stewardship matters.
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