Chuck Bentley, the CEO of Crown Financial Ministries — a Christian nonprofit that has reached over 100 countries with truths about God, money and stewardship — is the first to admit that as a younger man, he didn't fully understand biblical principles surrounding finances.
Crown Financial Ministries was founded in 1976 by the late Larry Burkett with a mission “to spread the principles and practices of God’s economy throughout the world and to transform people and society through the principles and practices of God’s economy."
Before taking on his lead role running the finance ministry about two decades ago, Bentley said he had to learn the basic foundations of what the Bible says about finances from the ministry.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Bentley shared how 1999, he was personally impacted by the ministry after his wife encouraged him to join a Crown Bible study hosted at his church.
“In many ways, I was upside down, not just on the mechanics of money and my own motivations, the things in my heart that were wrong and I was biblically illiterate when it comes to this topic,” he recalled.
“I had no idea that there’s more in the Bible about money than Heaven and Hell combined,” he added.
Bentley said that Crown Financial transformed him because his mind was renewed and he started to view the world from a different perspective.
“I wanted to apply myself to really becoming knowledgeable about what God said because I had done it wrong for [over] 20 years,” he shared. “I wanted to start to do it right, and I committed to that end, and I’ve been doing this now for 22 years,” he continued.
Now, he dedicates his life to helping Christians understand how to best steward their resources and what the Bible does — and doesn't say — about money.
Finances and tithing tend to be unpopular sermon topics, Bentley said, and before the ministry changed his perspective, he'd heard a few pastors address charitable giving. But, he never obeyed the few messages he did hear.
“I was happy at 2% and the national average is 6%,” Bentley recounted. “The only people that knew that I was doing 2.6% were my wife and God. And my wife wasn’t very happy about that. She wanted to see us be more generous.”
When Bentley and his wife began to learn what God says about money, he said the two realized that “He didn’t just have a call on the first 10%; He had a call on 100%.”
“The other 90% belonged to Him,” Bentley said. “And that’s the reality of our life. We start with nothing. We leave with nothing and so everything in between is not something we’re accumulating; we hang onto. That was my goal in life, and so I was trying to climb the wrong ladder.”
Bentley said Psalms 24:1 helped him to recognize that God owns everything and everyone, including all money earned.
“He died to purchase us and redeem us and He wants us to honor Him with all we have, whether it’s a lot or a little or something in between, and that changed the way I think about finances,” Bentley said.
“I stopped desiring to accumulate the world and to sort of measure my success, identity and purpose by having how much I had,” he added.
The new perspective that Bentley adopted was, “If God owns all of this, then what does He want me to do with it?” The answer to the question, he stressed, is “to be faithful with whatever He’s given.”
“Faithfulness became my goal, not success,” Bentley said.
Many people think "biblical stewardship" means getting out of debt, saving money or becoming successful with money God's way.
But "that's not the real message," he posited.
"Biblical stewardship is not ordering your finances in such a way that you can spend whatever you want. But, it’s ordering your finances in such a way that God can spin you however He wants. And that’s when you really got it. That’s when He has all of you."
When Christians choose to surrender themselves to the goals and purposes of the Lord and obey what He wants to do with their finances, that is when they have learned what true biblical literacy is.
In the midst of high inflation and other financial struggles facing the nation, Bentley said many Christians are faced with questions about tithing. Oftentimes, they are asking the wrong questions, he emphasized.
“I think most people ask the question wrong. They ask, 'How much of my money should I give?’ They wrestle with that. Oftentimes, it’s not very radical,” Bentley said.
“But, I like to flip it over and we should be asking ourselves, 'How much of God’s money should I live on,’ and that question changes your perspective because it’s all His,” he continued.
God doesn’t want Christians to think of tithing as a “painful thing to be radically generous,” he said, adding: “It’s actually our joy and privilege to be generous with whatever He’s given us."
There are a few misconceptions that Christians have about finances, the financial expert said. Some people adhere to the prosperity gospel, which promotes the idea that "we can demand of God to make us rich without working." Others subscribe to the “poverty gospel," believing that the wealthy are evil and greedy and they have money because they “abused people or oppressed people.”
“They think that righteousness comes through denying themselves and they feel more spiritual and actually are proud of it, that they don’t have anything,” Bentley said.
“I’ve encountered both of those extremes and so the middle ground is that God expects us to be responsible for what He’s given us, no matter how much that is. We’re all called to responsibility and we’ll be measured by whether or not we’re faithful to the Lord with a lot or a little or something in between,” he said.
Financial wisdom begins at a young age. Bentley said he and his wife taught their four boys to allocate their financial resources as soon as they were able to learn, whether it was birthday money from their grandma, babysitting, a little extra income or having a job.
“Essentially, [my kids] had to learn to budget and the kids had to do that their whole life,” he said. “They didn’t know what it was like to not take a dollar, put it in envelopes and figure out where it was going to go. And so that gave them the freedom to spend money on purpose without guilt and without worrying about if they were going to have enough.”
One of the best financial lessons a parent can teach their child is “no,” Bentley noted.
"I used to tell the kids, ‘Look at the back door. There’s no tree out there with dollars falling off.’ We have to have constraints over our consumption,” he contended.
Ultimately, Christians would do well to remember that all they have and possess is God's, Bentley said. From there, they will want to honor Him by stewarding their resources well.
"Everything belongs to the Lord, and we will be asked what we did with it and the famous verse of, 'Well done good and faithful servant,’ is about money,'" he said.
“We tend to think that [Matthew 25] is just about being a nice person, but it’s about, were we responsible with our resources?” he added.