If a gymnast sets out to balance across a beam, they won’t look down at their feet. They focus on a fixed point in the distance. Someone stretching in the gym in a Pilates class gets told when balancing to “Aim at a spot on the wall.” If not, you fall over. You have to have an aim to be in balance. A good financial advisor’s first question would ask you what your aim for your money is.
Some people aim to make as much as they can. You can quickly end up way off-balance like that. Some of us guys use net worth as a measure of self-worth. A philosopher called Epicurus once said, “To whom little is not enough, nothing is enough.” You can always think of more things to do with more money, and if that’s where you look for contentment it will be a carrot on a stick, always just out of reach. If continued accumulation drives your life, you will never be satisfied and you will inevitably have relational issues.
The Bible never says money is evil; it’s just a commodity of exchange that can be used for good or ill. What it does say is, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10 NLT, emphasis mine). You may have the Midas touch, but you know how his story ended! It’s madness to think that more money equates to more happiness. Who’s more happy, the man with ten million or the man with ten kids? The man with ten kids, because he has more than enough!
Some men will answer that their financial aim is to provide for their loved ones. Noble words. But often misguided. Savoo.co.ukrecently commissioned a survey of two thousand five hundred Britishworking dads, to study their attitudes toward family life. When asked to identify the roles they perceived as their key responsibilitieswithin their own family unit, three-quarters of those questionedidentified themselves more as a breadwinner than as a father. In thesame survey, three-quarters said they wished they spent less timeworking and more time with their kids. They need to have a wordwith themselves!
Providing for your loved ones is a great thing to do—in fact the Bible commands it. In The Message version, 1 Timothy 5:8 puts it very strongly: “Anyone who neglects to care for family members in need repudiates the faith.” But that goes way beyond money. We all know someone who was good at looking after their family financially but not relationally. Kids want our presence more than our presents!
Your aim may be to save a lot of money. In Luke 12:13–21 Jesus told a parable about a character we call the rich fool as a sobering reminder that one day you will be pushing up the daisies instead of piling up the interest, and who’ll get it all then? Rainy days happen, so saving is wise. But it’s not going to bring real security or joy in your life or your finances. Riches can be gone quicker than you can say “Ebenezer Scrooge” regardless of where you invest in this life, and you won’t be much fun to live with if all you want to do with your money is save it! True financial wisdom doesn’t just extend ten or twenty years into the future—it takes account of eternal realities.
Your aim could be simply, “Spend, spend, spend!” It’s how most people live these days, as we’ve moved on from keeping up with the Joneses to trying to keep up with the Kardashians, as the advertisers promised we could. Living on 110 percent of your income or more is a recipe for misery and disaster, but even with a global recession in the not-so-distant past, we let ourselves off the hook by pointing the finger at greedy bankers and bent politicians. But we spend the money. We bought the stuff, defined ourselves by it. We shop and shop, as the economy drops.
Can I suggest a great aim for your finances? To be financially free. The picture most would have of being financially free is to do whatever they want. That sounds like a good aim, but it’s only halfway to heaven.
We all know stories of people who have multiple millions and yet their lives end up a train wreck. You probably think if you had that kind of money you’d be clever enough not to waste it like that. Yet households here in Britain spend, on average, £1.9million in a lifetime. You can make all you can, splurge all you can, save all you can, look after your family—all well and good. But good enough?
“God gave everything to you in the first place. You only ever give back.”
How about this as an aim? To not have to worry about money, because you simply have enough to do whatever God wants. Impossible? That was the way Jesus Christ lived during His time on the earth and He said we can live like that too. He made this the centerpiece of his financial advice: “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matt. 6:32–34).
Whether thinking about saving, spending, investing, or giving, the Bible says consistently: if you want true financial balance, your aim should be to put God first in that three-way relationship with money. We looked in the last chapter at how an important facet of your life is to look after the body God gave you well, which will reap all kinds of benefits. The same principle that governs your health applies to your wealth. God gives you 100 percent of everything, and expects you to look after it all well, and give some of it back.
A phrase in one of the Church of England prayer books reminds regular worshipers of this aim every Sunday. It comes right out of words in the Old Testament, spoken by one of the richest and wisest men who ever lived, King David, on the day he gave away literally tons of his own gold to fund building work on the temple in Jerusalem. He beautifully summed up his attitude with regard to wealth and how he aimed to use it:
Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the splendour, and the majesty; for everything in heaven and on earth is yours. All things come from you, and of your own do we give you.
(Church of England, New Patterns for Worship)
God gave everything to you in the first place. You only ever give back. As these words say, ALL things come from Him. So anything we give back to Him or to help others is a natural and grateful response to His generosity and love.
Great nineteenth-century British statesman John Bright is attributed with this acerbic assessment of then prime minister Benjamin Disraeli: “He is a self-made man, and worships his creator.” However much we make, we are not self-made at all. Anything you ever had, anyone who has ever been able to do anything, whatever the achievement, owes that accomplishment to the God who enabled it. That’s what David realized as he looked at all his “stuff.”
Even though from a human perspective, David had led well, fought hard, and made some courageous decisions and sacrifices to amass the possessions, position, and prestige he enjoyed, he was humble enough not to take the credit. He knew God was at work— in an up-front way or behind the scenes—to give him “all things.” So, this earthly king sought God’s kingdom first. He aimed at being generous, grateful, and faithful with what he was entrusted.
Everything changes in our relationship to money when we get that same perspective. Do you want to get out from under the burden, fear, and worry of having to be in charge of your financial future, so you can have joy? How do you get that? Transfer the ownership. Put God in charge. Do it today. Put God back in charge of it all. Even if I’m great with money, I don’t know what tomorrow brings. It can all go quicker than you can say “Chinese stock market crash.” Transfer ownership: put back in first place the God who supplies it in the first place.
I know that I have been given a lot to look after but whether I have more or less I have a lot less to worry about when I remind myself that I’m not really the owner of it. Everything I have is on loan to me, for the short amount of time I am on earth. People who have this perspective have a different aim for their treasure, time, and talents. They say to God, “All things come from You.” Their aim is to please Him with all of it. That’s where I believe true financial freedom starts, as we don’t worry but do what God says, with all He gives us.
God doesn’t need your money. A preacher named Andy Stanley says, “God doesn’t want anything from you—he wants something for you!” If God rules your life, not greed, need, or want, you start living as a financially free person, free to be generous.
God’s aim is for us to honor Him with His money, to manage all of it in a way that honors Him. This is what it means to be a steward, to look after what belongs to another, the way He would want me to. As I do that, I have found He meets all my needs. I make decisions in regard to my income, expenditure, saving, giving, pensions, the same as you do—but the filter question now is not “What do I want?” Rather it’s, “God, how do I honor You?”
by Anthony Delaney
Society says, “Show us what you’re made of!” But God says, “I know what I made you for.” Ex-cop-turned-minister...
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