Questions About Your Personal Finances? Read the Bible

He found more than 2,350 mentions of money and possessions, and typed them up. He and his wife started to live by what those passages had to say.

You're Not the Owner: God Is

"Bev drove the same car for 17 years. We used to call it Puff because of the smoke that would come out of the exhaust when it took off," he said. "One of the things that the Bible teaches is that of contentment ... not that we are to be lazy and not try to improve our lives. But what you have at the moment, be content with it. And that was a huge concept for me, particularly coming from a place where I had just wanted to get filthy rich."

The basics of Dayton's message sound similar to that of a secular person: Live within your means, and stay out of debt. But Dayton said his message is different.

"Not many folks are going to say ... you're not the owner of what you have," he said. "God's the manager, and this is the way He wants to manage the resources. It really gets the focus off yourself and onto the Lord."

This is where his teachings about how to manage your personal and business finances stray from your average CPA.

Another big difference: Dayton said people should give 10 percent of their money to their local church.

"We serve a big God, and I think the Lord recognizes that for all of us, particularly if money is tight, giving is a step of faith," Dayton said. "He's not saying that I'll make you rich, but he is saying, I'll meet your needs."

The Critics

Some Christians are squeamish about finance ministries, because they suspect that, perhaps these churches are simply trying to get more money out of their followers. Others say that, using the Bible as a financial how-to, trivializes it.

"I think there's often a kind of a naive, literalist view of scripture that operates here," said Emory University professor of theology Thomas Long. "The assumption is, that if you read scripture well, embedded in it is a kind of divine plan for financial management. It's sort of in there, like the Da Vinci code, that if you read it right, you can get it to come to the surface, very specific instructions about how to invest, and how to allocate resources. It's one thing to say, 'What would Jesus do?' but it gets a little silly when [it's], 'Would Jesus diversify his portfolio? Or take a no-loan mutual fund?'"

Long pointed out that debt in the Biblical world is not exactly the same as debt in our world.

For example, remember that scripture about the borrower being the servant of the lender? Long said, in biblical times, borrowers were literally slaves to their lenders. That's obviously not true today.

"My problem with it is, just the whole idea that you can pick and choose verses out of scripture, lace them together, and create some divinely inspired plan for financial management," Long said. "As one theologian said, that's sort of like reading 'Moby Dick' as a whaling manual."

'We'd Like To Teach 300 Million People'

"That's the huge mistake that most people make, that they don't see handling money as a spiritual issue. It's intensely spiritual," Dayton said. "How we use money tells an awful lot about us. I tell people, let me see your check book and your credit card statement, and I can really tell you what's important to you."

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