Living in Financial Freedom
God doesn’t intend for us to struggle financially our entire lives. There are seasons of struggle, however, that we all go through. Whether we’re just young and naïve, or we’re a bit older and perhaps undisciplined with our finances, it’s not uncommon for people to find themselves in financial distress.
God’s plan is for us to manage our resources though, not the other way around. It is possible to get out of the prison of debt and live lives of financial freedom!
Dave and I have been through seasons of want and of plenty. I’d like to share with you some of the things we learned as a way of offering you encouragement.
We are stewards, not owners.
That’s the first and overriding principle we have to recognize. Everything we have is a gift from God. We have a tendency to act like we “earned” things, but that’s not the truth. Without the time, talents and providence of God, we wouldn’t have anything!
Everything belongs to God. He simply allows us the great privilege of caring for it. And one of the best ways we can do that is to not be wasteful.
In John 6:12, after Jesus fed the multitude, He told the people, “Gather up now the fragments (the broken pieces left over) so that nothing may be lost or wasted.” Jesus could have simply done another miracle to provide for the cleanup after his miraculous meal, but instead he taught people about the importance of making the most out of what God has provided.
Jesus also taught in Matthew 25 that God will put us through “tests” to see if we can handle greater blessings.
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.’” (Matthew 25:21 NIV)
God isn’t going to release new blessings into our lives until we first learn to manage the ones He’s already provided. If you’re waiting for your financial breakthrough, it could be that God isn’t finished preparing you yet.
As you learn to be a better steward with what you have, God will, little by little, give you more. When you start using the resources you have to bless others and bring glory and honor to Him, he’ll bless you with more so that His glory can multiply!
What Do You Love More than Money?
There are more than 2,000 verses in the Bible that talk about money, including the famous one from I Timothy that says “the love of money is the root of all evils.” Notice is says “the love of money,” not just money.
Money can be something that draws us away from God and can destroy relationships. It can also be used to bless many people, relieve suffering and share the Gospel. It just depends on what our relationship is to money.
There’s a reason why Jesus talked about how difficult it was for the rich to enter into the Kingdom (Matthew 19:24). We can fall under the illusion that money is the solution to our problems, and not God. We can quickly forget the principle stated at the beginning, that God is the source of our prosperity.
That’s why it’s so important to keep God first. If we don’t do that, we won’t be getting very much enjoyment out of our financial blessings, and it’s very likely that they won’t keep coming very much longer either.
We can also put money in front of other people if we’re not careful. People who are wealthy sometimes face the temptation to use that status to make themselves seem important, and that grieves God! Instead, we ought to be using our financial blessings to serve others. (I Timothy 6:17-18)
The Bible teaches us that nothing is more important that our relationships, first with God, and then with each other. If we can maintain a balanced relationship with money and not let it get in the way of those more important relationships, then we will be able to live with joy, help a lot of people, and best of all, God will receive all the glory!
Principles for Wise Financial Stewardship
My husband, Dave, has been a great example to me in handling money. He’s shown me that it doesn’t take an MBA to make wise financial decisions. Instead it takes good character and the application of sound, godly principles.
If you can learn to live by these four important principles, you’ll see your financial borders begin to expand:
1. Work for it.
It’s not likely that God is going to drop a huge financial windfall in your lap while you’re sitting on the couch watching TV. Neither are you going to become financially successful if you live carelessly and pray for God to “clean up” your financial mistakes. Being financially successful takes hard work!
A lot of people want today what it took their parents years to get. They’re just not patient or diligent enough to put in the same kind of effort over time that their parents did. They end up making poor investments, trying to get rich quick, or go into debt to get things they can’t afford.
God calls us to live with excellence and integrity. That means that we give a good day’s work for a good day’s pay, and that we try as best we can to live within our means.
Work is good for us. It gives us a sense of purpose and accomplishment, and is a form of service to others. If we’re obedient and work with integrity, God will bless our work. (Deuteronomy 28:8)
2. Give generously
The best way to be happy in this life is to be a blessing to other people. That’s true of how we spend our time and certainly true of how we spend our money.
It’s something I’ve experienced over and over: the more you give away, the more you’ll be blessed. When God asks us to give our money away in the form of tithing or other contributions, He’s not trying to take something away from us. He’s simply giving us the opportunity to be a part of what He’s doing to meet the needs of others. And that’s a part of His purpose an calling on our lives.
Whatever you give up now will come back to you one-hundred-fold in this lifetime (see Mark 10:29-30). If you want to have an abundant life, then I encourage you to ask God to help you live generously.
It’s extremely important that we be prepared for unexpected expenses, like flat tires, house repairs or medical bills. When we have savings set aside for these emergencies, it will help us avoid going into debt.
If you’re already giving regularly, let me encourage you to set aside an additional amount each paycheck as a personal savings. Start with whatever you can afford and save more as you’re able.
If you will be diligent in saving, God’s Word says he will command blessings on your storehouse (Deuteronomy 28:8). God wants you to trust and expect Him to fulfill His promises in your life.
Here’s the good part! Yes, you need to spend some of your money. Buy yourself something nice once in a while. While saving is important, God doesn’t call us to be hoarders. Just make sure that when you’re spending, you’re following a few, simple guidelines:
- Know what you have. Make sure that you’re balancing your checkbook and have a budget prepared so that you know what is coming in and what’s going out.
- Don’t buy what you don’t need. The quickest way to the prison of debt is convincing ourselves that “wants” are “needs.” If you obviously don’t need something and it’s not in your budget to afford it, then be bold enough not to buy it. I know this one is hard, but you can do it!
- Don’t buy with what you don’t have. Credit cards aren’t bad in and of themselves, but if you can’t control what you spend with them, then using them is a bad idea. A general rule for using credit cards is to only spend what you can pay off at the end of the month. The interest on consumer debt can quickly get out of control.
- Pay debts off immediately. Living debt-free will give you the flexibility to live more generously and more abundantly. If you’re dealing with debt now, make a plan to get out. Start with the smallest debt and work your way to the biggest ones.
- Invest. This is wise spending. It’s setting aside money so that it will bring a return later on. Sound investments in property, mutual funds and the like can allow your money to work for you instead of the other way around.
Figuring out the best options for your financial future can seem overwhelming with all the choices out there. And what works for one person may not be what works for you. That’s why I recommend talking with a financial adviser.
Money doesn’t have to be a source of stress in your life. If you start managing your financial resources in godly ways, they can be sources of tremendous blessings, both for you and for others.
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