Let’s look at the ant. Such a tiny insect teaches us a great deal about good management. Ants work together and help each other, and show us the value of planning for the future. They save during the summer when there is plenty and then use the store during the winter when resources are minimal.
“Can money make you happy?” was the title of a TEDx talk by Michael Norton I listened to recently. It caught my attention. It’s definitely true that having enough money to pay the bills and having some left over makes for a much easier life.
The Bible is silent on when we can owe money. It warns against the dangers of debt, but does not preclude it. Where possible it is best to avoid debt – resisting the endless offers to buy now and pay later. It is better to choose to wait until you have the money to purchase the item you need.
1. Be satisfied with what you have
‘Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”’ Hebrews 13:5
Having an attitude of gratitude will stop those feelings of disatisfaction. When we focus on what we do have, and desire what you have already, our perception changes.
Making a gatitude journal can help develop this as by writing a list of positive things down, it helps us focus on them. If this doesn’t come naturally to you take time each day to do this. Enjoy what you own and intentionally appreciate it. Go beyond material possessions and add people to your list that you are grateful for.
Recognise that having more doesn’t increase your happiness and comparison with what others have is a joy stealer.
2. Don’t be conformed to the ways of the world
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
Who is shaping your thoughts and desires? Is it God and His Word or are you more influenced by the materialistic world we live in?
Our western culture is – buy more, have the latest product, “keep up with the Jones” meaning make sure you have what your neighbour has – and more! Have the latest technology, the biggest and the best, use credit to pay for what you can’t afford and yet at the same time we also have a disposable mentality.
What are you feeding on?
In order for our minds to be renewed and not conform to this world we need to feed on the Word of God daily and meditate on it. Watch, listen and read. Saying no to fleshly desires and say “Yes” to God. Work out the spiritual disciplines in your life and be intentional about them.
3. Be content whatever your circumstances
“ I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.“ Philippians 4:11-13
Paul was in prison for his faith when he wrote these words. I’m not sure many of us would be able to say the same thing. His situation seems unfair as he was imprisoned for what he believes.
He showed great humility and was content to know that he had an assurance of his salvation as well as a right relationship with God. This was very real to Paul, as he knew what it was to oppose the Gospel and mistreat people. He chose to have a grateful heart which was demonstrated when he was in prison with Silas, where they chose to worship and give glory to God despite their situation. The incredible results were not only freedom for themselves but also freedom for those around them. The jailer got saved as a result.
4. Live simply
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” Philippians 3:7-9
Again this scripture describes Paul’s attitude of heart. It is not simply decluttering and getting rid of stuff, although there is great benefit in clearing and removing unecessary items from our homes. Developing a habit of giving things away, buying things for their usefulness and not status, and not engaging with anything that distracts you from seeking the Kingdom of God will aid you in living simply.
There is no clear line indicating exactly how much is enough. Richard Foster describes simplicity in his book “Freedom of simplicity –finding in a complex world” as:
“an inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle.” It’s “a life of joyful unconcern for possessions” and “the one thing that sufficiently reorients our lives so that possessions can be genuinely enjoyed without destroying us.”
Greater peace and freedom can come into our lives when we understand God’s role and our role concerning our finances. The Bible says :
“Everything in the heavens and the earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your Kingdom. We adore you as being in control of everything. Riches and honour come from you alone, and you are the ruler of all mankind: your hand controls power and might, and it is at your discretion that men are made great and given strength.” 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 (TLB)
Acknowledging that God’s owns everything can be a big shift in our hearts and minds. However once we accept this it will influence our decisions and how we use God’s money. We become stewards or managers of what He has given us and as a result have a responsibility to be faithful. The wonderful thing is that He doesn’t just leave us to do this alone. We have Holy Spirit to guide us, we have His Word to direct us and a loving Father who is interested in every aspect of our lives.
What is our role?
We are his stewards. A steward is one who manages wisely the resources entrusted to him by another.
How do you relate to your money and your possessions?
There are four main ways people relate to money and possessions.
1The self absorbed owner believes everything belongs to them and they have full authority in deciding how to use it.
The obligated owner believes they owns it all and have full authority over it, but at the same time feels an obligation to give some of his money away.
The obedient owner takes seriously the Biblical call to tithe 10% to God’s work, and usually feels good about being obedient. However, they still retain ownership of the remaining 90% and exercises full authority of what remains.
The love inspired steward believes deeply that God not only created and provided all that they have, but that the Master retains full ownership. As a result, all decisions related to money and possessions are in the context of seeking God’s direction in the use of His (God’s) possessions.
Do you identify with any of these characteristics from one of more of these ways?
How can we overcome the world’s system?
The Bible highlights the problem of putting our faith, trust and confidence in money instead of God. When money is the focus of our affection we look to find security in it.
The Bible says:
No-one can serve two masters. Either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
The word Jesus uses in this verse for money is Mammon which depicts the force behind money. The word means “in whom I trust.” Jesus was warning us we need to choose between serving God or trusting in money. Money can compete for our allegiance.
The pull of money can creep into our daily lives, take hold of us, subtly changing how we think bringing with it increased greed, stinginess and sometimes worry and anxiety.
If you identify with this, take a moment to repent and determine to get back on the right track again. Acknowledge that everything is the Lord’s and He is entrusting what He gives to you. He is so faithful and kind and has promised to provide for us.
If you need extra help find a mature Christian friend or someone you trust who can give you wise counsel.
Fear the Lord, you His Saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord will lack no good thing.”
Learning contentment through thankfulness and being generous will keep the world’s system at bay.
Marketing encourages us to buy things that we often don’t need and the financial companies are very happy to lend us the money for those items. As a result debt is commonplace and there is even an expectation that it need not be paid off as debt has become acceptable in our society. Sometimes hard times come upon us and debt is unavoidable but generally our society seems to esteem/highlight materialism and wealth and possessions without the emphasis on the importance of character and skills.
Take the opportunity each day this week to think of something you are grateful for. Write it down. It can also be something to re read in times when you need encouragement.
What brings you satisfaction?
Words of wisdom
“Materialism is to generosity what kryptonite was to Superman.“ Lloyd Shadrach
“A wise man should have money in his head, but not money in his heart.” Jonathan Swift