Reader Q&A: Sinful Money

August 8, 2008

Skip recently wrote to me asking a very interesting question. Here it is in full:

“Part of my spouses income has been acquired through sinful means in my opinion. My spouse does not believe she is being sinful.

What does the Bible say about money earned through sinful means? Should it be returned (likely impossible in this case), given to charity or … what?

I feel a little guilt at having the benefit of that money acquired sinfully. What should I do?”

Here’s my advice on this situation.

If it’s possible, it should be returned. Remember what Zacchaeus did in Luke 19:8. He was a tax collector and essentially stole money by collecting more taxes than were due. He gave half of his goods to the poor and returned four times as much to anyone he stole from.

However, money acquired “sinfully” sometimes cannot be returned. I think it’s okay to give it to charity but it also comes down to a similar question, “Should a preacher accept “sinful” money like drug money?” Giving to God is a matter of the heart. An acceptable gift depends on the person’s heart and not the source of the money. Zacchaeus gave half of his wealth to the poor. Then Jesus said that salvation had come to Zacchaeus.

I also think it’s okay to keep the money as long as there is true repentance (turning from the sin and turning to God) and to not to earn the money sinfully again.

I think the bigger issue is why your spouse doesn’t think it’s sinful. It’s hard for me to say without knowing the exact situation but there are some clear-cut principles laid out in the Bible. Stealing is obviously wrong. So is prostitution or gambling. If there is some debate as to whether it’s sinful or not, there are some sin issues that need to be sorted out; not the issue of what to do with the money.

Have a question? Ask me today and I just might answer it right here!

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