Dollars and Sense – Part 2

As a husband and father, I sought to have an attitude of “Always a Student.”  Lifelong learning wasn’t just a hobby; it was a vocation, a necessary tool to survive the ups and downs of life. I explained that mindset in more detail in my blog post  Constantly Improve Your Position, dated August 16, 2018.  

Becoming financially literate and astute has taken a lifetime of learning — life lessons, more often than not, learned the hard and costly way. As Mark Twain said, “Judgment is the result of experience and experience the result of bad judgment.” 

Truth be told, I have made enough poor financial decisions to earn a degree from the School of Hard Knocks. Fortunately, those experiences, as Twain’s quote would suggest, eventually resulted in good judgment. 

The seeds of success were found in my financial defeats.

A key step on the path to financial freedom is understanding what the Word says about money, that is, a biblical view of managing finances. Regardless of what you may believe about the Scriptures, a wealth of wisdom, especially financial wisdom, is seeded throughout the Bible with more than 2,000 references to money and possessions. 

“Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:7-8)

“Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise.” (Ephesians 5:15)

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.” (Hebrews 13:5) 

Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:8-9)

Godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Timothy 6:6)

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.  (Proverbs 22:1)

The first Scriptural insight that became painfully clear was that Scripture has a far different view of wealth and success than the world does. Our culture touts the myth that happiness and security are based on a philosophy of more — more money, more stuff, more is always better. 

The reality is that the more things you own, the more things own you. 

The funny, oft-quoted bumper sticker that proclaims “He who dies with the most toys wins” fails to state what the materialist wins. He who dies with the most toys is dead and wins nothing — and somebody else will get the old, outdated toys. You will never find true contentment when you build your sense of worth and happiness on something other than God. My preferred philosophical bumper sticker is this one, “The most important things in life aren’t things!” 

The second Scriptural insight was the need to be cautious in matters of debt. Nowhere in Scripture is debt viewed positively. While not strictly prohibited, it should be avoided. Do not borrow beyond your ability to repay. The abuse of debt is a sinful behavior promoted by sinful attitudes. The keyword here being “abuse.” Such attitudes as:

Pride – I deserve it!

Greed – I want it all, I want it now!

Envy/Coveting – They have it, why shouldn’t I?

Ingratitude – I am not content with the blessings God has given me.

Sloth – Let’s take the easy way out; borrowing is easier than earning and saving.

The third insight garnered from Scripture was that contentment is only possible when you develop a thankful heart toward God for what you have and stop comparing what you have with others.  

A heart of gratitude is fundamental to the pursuit of financial freedom.

The fourth insight is to avoid speculation. Seek wise counsel, but do not let others make your final decisions. 

The fifth insight is to avoid indulgences by discerning the difference between needs, wants, and desires. Do not allow your wants and desires to prevent you from saving for seasons of drought.

Finally, the goal of financial freedom does not mean that you now possess sufficient wealth to do whatever you want, but rather possess the freedom to serve God and others.

In his book Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, John Piper made this statement, “The issue is not how much a person makes.  Big industry and big salaries are a fact of our times, and they are not necessarily evil.  The evil is in being deceived into thinking a $100,000 salary must be accompanied by a $100,000 lifestyle.  God has made us to be conduits of His grace.  The danger is in thinking the conduit should be lined with gold.  It shouldn’t.  Copper will do.”

Ouch.

The Scriptures do not condemn wealth; they condemn the love of money or whenever it is used for evil or foolish purposes. A generous heart helps us avoid being too attached to our possessions while paving the way to experience true riches through giving. I love the quote by Bill Williams, a retired BellSouth executive, who said, ”So often in life, your overflow may be someone else’s necessity.” That reflects a biblical mindset.

In other words, how you spend your money is more important than what you have.

That was wisdom from the Word.  So what wisdom have I gleaned from the Wise?  Come back next week for part 3 of Dollars and Sense.

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