Achieving long-term financial success is easier when you know where the landmines are and how to avoid them. Here are a few of the big ones.
Some folks think that being a Christian should guarantee their financial freedom, but it isn’t that easy. Going to church every Sunday is not a sure-fire way to become a millionaire. Like anything worth having, financial freedom takes work (coupled with a heavy dose of faithfulness). Achieving long-term financial success is easier when you know where the landmines are and how to avoid them. Here are a few of the big ones…
Cosigning for Someone’s Loan
I know plenty of folks who thought they were doing the Christian thing—trying to “help a brother or a sister out”—but ended upholding the bag (and the loan)! A Federal Trade Commission study found that 50% of those who cosigned for bank loans ended up having to make the payments themselves. The Bible doesn’t say cosigning is a sin, but read carefully and you’ll agree that Proverbs 17:18 says it’s not a smart thing to do: “A man lacking in judgment strikes hands in pledge and puts up security for his neighbor.”
Unless you are willing and able to foot the bill for someone else when they default on the loan, don’t cosign for anyone—not your momma, your cousin or your friend! If you’ve already cosigned, then do what you can to remove your name from the loan papers before it’s too late!
For more biblical advice on cosigning, check out Proverbs 6:1-5, 11:15, 20:16, 22:26-27, and 27:13.
Falling for the “Prosperity Theology” Hype
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be prosperous, but that’s not what prosperity theology preaches. It fools Christians into believing that material wealth, achievement, fame, victory or success are reliable indicators of God’s approval. On the flip side, prosperity theology dictates that the lack of those things means God doesn’t like you, or you just don’t have enough faith.
This practice reduces prayer to an endless wish list that we take to our "Santa" God. It teaches that all you have to do is “name it and claim it” to have the world at your feet—kicking faithful works right out of the picture. So many people have been hurt by this false teaching. Listen here... just be faithful with what God tells you to do, and leave the results up to Him. If you don’t earn millions, it doesn’t mean God loves you any less.
Separating Financial Life from Spiritual Life
Jesus made it very clear—you can’t separate your financial life from your spiritual life. Think it isn’t so? Read Luke 18:18-23 and 19:1-10. Jesus often used money as a barometer to see who was really “down with the cause.” In fact, there are more than 2,000 verses in the Bible that deal with money and possessions.
Money management is a spiritual issue and is just as important as your prayer life, church life, and getting your praise on. It reflects on the quality of your spiritual life (turn to Luke 16:11). God looks at how we handle money to see if we are good stewards of His resources, which makes perfect sense because it all comes from God.
Confusing Faith with Foolishness
When it comes to money and business, there is a fine line between stepping out on faith and just being plain ol’ stupid. Unfortunately some Christians don’t know how to distinguish between the two and use God as a scapegoat when they make poor decisions. Just because God spoke to you last night or gave you a vision is no reason to run off half-cocked the very next day, without a plan or provisions. I know faith requires risk, but even God-inspired dreams need a plan and wise counsel.
Looking for a get-rich-quick scheme? Just head to the nearest church and you’ll find a huckster ready to sell one to you. These money-grabbers gravitate towards churches because a lot of Christians are “looking for a miracle”—the next financial breakthrough—and will jump at the first opportunity that promises quick money! So the next time you hear, “You can’t lose,” beware of a scam and remember, if it sounds too good to be true then it’s probably a scam.
Refusing to Tithe
Are you one of those folks who say they can’t afford to tithe, but every time God looks down He sees the tithe on your back, in the garage or on your feet? You’re not fooling anyone, especially God, when you spend His money on new clothes, vacations or other luxuries instead of dropping 10% in the collection plate. Proverbs 3:9-10 reminds us to honor God first, and He will continue to provide for our needs.
Squandering the Other 90%
All of what you have belongs to God (not just your ten percent tithe), and He expects you to handle it responsibly. If you tithe but are still struggling financially, is it because you’ve been actin’ a fool with the 90 percent you have left?
If you’re trying to impress the Jones with a fancy car and designer clothes while your bank account sits on empty, and you aren’t saving at least 10% of your income, you may never get out of your financial hole.
Not Saving for Retirement
I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but I’m going to say it again, “God helps those who help themselves.” So don’t sit around waiting for God to take care of you, if you aren’t doing anything to take care of yourself. Even ants store up food in the summer in order to prepare for the winter (Proverbs 30:25).
Don’t leave your retirement to chance and call it “faith.” Like the ant you must make provisions for your future, then leave the rest up to God. Make sure you are enrolled in your company’s 401k plan. Invest in a Roth IRA. Retirement will be here sooner than you think.
Falling in Love with Debt
The new slave masters of today are Master Card, Visa and Discover, just to name a few! The Bible even warns us that, “the borrower becomes the lenders slave” (Proverbs 22:7).
It’s so easy to get caught up in this. One small purchase turns into five then before you know it, you’re cards are maxed out, and you’re in shackles!
If you are currently in debt, start planning to eliminate it, today: (1) Consider cutting up those credit cards, (2) Pay off your credit card balances, (3) Get on a budget, and (4) Find a way to earn additional income (use the extra money to pay off debt, instead of shopping).
Living Beyond Your Means
“If your expenses exceed your income, then your upkeep will be your downfall.” And in my line of business, I see a lot of folks falling down. Many people live beyond their means and expect God to bail ‘em out. Then when the bills don’t get paid, they say the devil is attacking them.
It would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous. Materialism is alive and well in the church and a lot of us are caught up. Instead of blaming “the enemy,” take action to get your finances under control. Create a budget and live by it. Reduce your expenses, simplify your lifestyle, and put some money in the bank (even if it’s just $20 a week). The true definition of financial freedom is being content with what you have and having peace of mind that all of your needs (not wants) are satisfied.