Financial Determinism Vs Reaping What You Sow: Did God Make the Mess or Did You?

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We’re going to be walking a fine line.  Step too far to one side, and you’ll start acting like God makes all things happen regardless of your behavior.  Stray too far to the other side, and you’ll start living as if God is absent and the natural laws God put in place are the only signs of his ongoing presence in our lives.

On the one hand, God has bailed us out of every hardship and all that we have today is a result of the kindness and mercy of God.  On the other hand, God created a natural order that he allows (often without interfering) to rule and regulate our conduct.

God Causes all the Good and Bad things to Happen in My Finances (Providential Determinism)

Some people speak of their finances with a sense of providential determinism.  In all things, they are merely the puppets in God’s plan.  All they can do is watch what God will and will not do in their lives.  When times of financial hardship come, they ask for increased faith and spend more time in prayer.  They don’t, however, spend as much time filling out applications and working with spreadsheets.

Jesus tells us not to worry.  He promises that just as God clothes the flowers in beauty, so also he’ll clothe his followers.  As the birds of the air are fed by the hand of God, so also will his workers be fed by God (Mt. 6:25-34).

  • God provided both the water and manna for Israel in the desert.
  • God sent ravens to feed Elijah in the desert.
  • God supplied the oil to the widow.

Some people focus on these Bible verses and it impacts their theology (how they think about God), their speech, and their action.  They’ll say things like:

  • “God brought financial hardship into my life” instead of saying, “I made bad financial decisions that led to all this debt”.
  • “In God’s good timing God will bring me out of this money struggle” instead of saying, “I’m looking for a second job”.
  • “I’m just trusting in God to show his faithfulness again.” (I’m as passive observer of all financial things).
Folks in this camp will often spend more time praying and increasing their faith than looking at the bank book to try and identify the root of the financial issues.

God Stands on the Side Lines and Allows Cause and Effect to Dictate our Finances (You Reap What You Sow)

Some people focus on the cause and effect, and natural consequences dominate their financial discussions.

They’ll focus on sayings by Paul who says that if a man doesn’t work, he doesn’t eat (2 Thes. 3:10).  Don’t expect God to bail you out if you’re not doing anything to help your own situation first.

  • In the Proverbs, many of the teachings focus on developing a positive habit that leads to positive results.
  • God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows. (Gal. 6:7)
  • If a person wants to build a tower, won’t he first sit down and count the cost? (Luke 14:28)
People here will often see man as the root of all the issues and seek, then, to solve the problems by focusing solely on the man and his action and character.

Which is the best way to approach finances?

As you can clearly see, both of these must have elements of ‘rightness’ since there are clearly scriptures that support both concepts.

Therefore, I think a wise Christian would proceed with the knowledge and understanding that God’s default modus operandi with finances is to allow us reap what we sow.  In fact, historically, reaping what we sow is one of the most powerful ways that God teaches us to make good choices.  On the other hand, we must live with the full reality and recognition that God can, according to his will and desire, at any time bring poverty to the rich to humble them (Job), or lift up the undeserving poor (Prodigal Son).  God must ultimately become the source of praise in all we gain or in all we lose.

The true danger here is in forcing ourselves to choose one of these two options.  It is not an either/or issues, but both/and.  We all likely need to grow in one of these areas or the other.  Don’t blame God for all your financial problems and expect him to swoop down and save the day if your financial problems stem from dumb financial choices.  Yet, if you’ve made smart financial choices, don’t think those to be merely proof of your ‘greatness’.  They are proof of God’s good creation.  We shouldn’t ever face any financial challenge without full recognition of the need of God’s blessing and presence in any financial effort.

Do you tend to focus on financial determinism or reaping what you sow?


  1. says

    I think a lot does hinge on the financial choices we make. The principles are rather straightforward, live within your means, save etc. If we do not live by those principles more often than not we’ll end up in financial quagmire and that isn’t God’s doing. On the other hand there are things totally beyond our control and we have to leave that to God. But if you look at the latter, they are few and far between. Choices though, we make them every single day. So yes, its never a matter of either/or.

  2. Gabe says

    Great article. This theme is one I have been struggling with recently in ALL aspects of life: “How involved is God in our lives?”

    I know there is an extreme to be seen, and I agree that God CAN involve Himself in direct and supernatural ways, but I just don’t see the evidence that He does so anymore. I lean toward the miraculous having been only during the time and place of the establishment of Christ’s Church. BUT, we are told to pray for healing, and we often do pray for God to directly influence our lives or the lives of others.

    So I struggle with this concept, both in finances and in the rest of life, and I would agree with you saying that it is a balance (as are many things).


  3. says

    It serves no useful purpose to “ride the fence” and attempt to seek a balance between these two conflicting paradigms. It is actually a very dangerous and hellish place to remain in. It is double mindedness and James 1:6-8 suggests that double mindedness is a significant source of instability in our lives and those falling in this camp won’t receive anything of the Lord.

    It is difficult for us to conceive how the Creator could be absent in the mind of anyone who recognizes the love and justice manifested in natural law. Natural law is the great equalizer among mankind. It allows those with the spirit of God to harmonize their lives with the natural order of things and rise above the challenges they are presented with. Natural law is a constant reminder of the Creator and his inherent goodness, justice, and love.

    On the issue of personal responsibility there is no sane middle ground. We become insane (unstable, double minded) when we attempt to live a personally responsible life on a “part-time” basis.

    Craig, you implied or stated that God is standing on the sidelines when allowing cause and effect (natural law) to rule the world. If God made something really good, is retiring to the sidelines a negative or a positive? Genesis 1:31-2:1. If God flubbed up during the creation process, what hope do we have that he will be any better at continual tinkering?

    Personally, we believe that we are responsible for everything we do and everything that happens to us…period.

  4. Gaston says

    Thank you for writing this article. It made me assess my beliefs on how God deals with a christian’s finances. I get into financial trouble because I make bad decisions-nothing else. He has laid down financial principles that we are to follow but we get into trouble because we prefer, out of pride or plain ignorance, to do it our way. Yes,God, by his grace, has bailed me out several times BUT only because He chose to, for reasons known only to Him. He can turn your situation around because He is merciful.

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