Two people immediately come to mind when I think about financial mess-ups in the Bible: Matthew and Zacchaeus. Both were tax collectors and both made some pretty big mistakes when it came to handling money. What’s interesting is that even though they were hated for their dishonest practices, Jesus used their situations to minister to them and everyone who knew about them.
Matthew: You want me to do what?
Who would have known that Jesus would pick a tax collector as a disciple (hey, who am I to judge, everyone needs a good accountant). The problem was that tax collectors back then were notorious for being cheaters and swindlers, so when Jesus asked Matthew to ‘follow him,’ those around thought he was crazy.
Jesus, of course, didn’t condone the fraudulent behavior of the tax collectors, but those behaviors didn’t prevent him from reaching out to them. Matthew’s sketchy financial history wasn’t something to be proud of, but Jesus made the most out of it. When questioned by those wondering why he would eat with ‘sinners and tax collectors,’ Jesus challenged them with a statement that really revealed his purpose, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick….I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
Zacchaeus: Little man, big problems.
Towards the end of his ministry, Jesus had just come to Jericho and a crowd had gathered to see what he was going to say that day. Zacchaeus was a little too short to see, so he ended up watching from a tree until Jesus called him out and asked if he could have dinner with him. The crowd was angry to say the least, and Zacchaeus knew that his reputation for cheating people out of money was going to bite him.
Yes we read about how Zacchaeus repented to Jesus and that he was forgiven, but that wasn’t the end of the story. In Luke 19:11, just after Zacchaeus repented, Jesus went on to share one of the most challenging parables of stewardship that we find in scripture – the parable of the talents.
Jesus would have probably still shared this story even if he hadn’t met Zacchaeus that day, but I have to think that those who knew Zacchaeus were even more impacted by the parable.
How can we use financial mistakes for good?
We have all done something with money that we wish we could undo. Since we can’t turn back time, our focus should be on how we can use our experiences to help others along the way. If you’ve worked your way out of debt, or have really found ways to save and make ends meet, you might consider becoming a financial coach to someone going through a similar situation. I’m not suggesting that you become their financial planner, just a source for encouragement and tips that can help.
You can even share your experiences to a larger audience on Personal Finance by the Book or at Faith and Finance with a guest post. But the most important thing to do in order to make the most of our financial failures is to teach others by doing it right the next time. Be an example of good stewardship to your circle of influence and you might just have the opportunity to reshape the way someone views their finances.
Is there someone in your life who really impacted how you view your finances? What did they do that made such an impact?
Tim is a personal finance writer at Faith and Finance a Christian financial help blog that provides financial insights for individuals, businesses, and churches. Outside of finance, Tim enjoys spending time with his wife, playing the saxophone, reading economics books, and a good game of RISK or Catan. Find him on Twitter and Facebook and subscribe to the Faith and Finance RSS feed.