I’ve seen a few blogs today that spurred mie to write on this subject. Before reading more here, go check out SmallTown Joy, Farmgirl, and Wendy, each who’ve posted on a different aspect of financial responsibility in the Christian walk. Though I’m definitely over-summarizing, one of the main themes through these posts is that though there may be benefit to aspects of financial peace as proposed by Dave Ramsey and his 7-step plan to building wealth, particularly living debt-free, there are reasons to question whether we should be pursuing the security of financial freedom at all.
I’m not here to teach you about Dave Ramsey’s plan or to argue with my fellow bloggers about the merits of the plan but I do want to respond with my perspective – it is Moolah Monday afterall.
If you get nothing more from this post, hear this – none of us should be worried about whether we are judged by our peers on how we handle money. This is both a blessing and a curse. If you’re sitting back today worrying about whether your parents or sister or neighbor or Dave Ramsey himself are going to approve of your spending habits – let it go. You don’t owe any of us an explanation and you are not responsible to proving your financial responsibility to anyone. Some of you face parents who scrutinize your every decision. Some of you are wealthy and wonder if it’s ok. Statistically many others are scraping by trying to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak, either with accumulation of stuff OR demonstration of financial prowess. If you're concerned with any of this - let yourself experience the freedom from dropping it.
The flip-side is that you do need to be concerned about what God thinks. He alone will be judging you. In the end no one else’s opinion will matter, not even your own. If you need an example, check out the Parable of the Three Servants – where money (often interpreted as talents) is given to various “servants” (us) by a “master” (God) with each servant having different results. Those who turned their provisions into something more through investment of some sort were rewarded. The one who hid his money as to save it for when the master returned was rebuked and punished. The point? We are all given a variety of life situations – maybe money, maybe talent, maybe opportunities – and these things are to be put to use in a way that is consistent with the master’s purposes for what was given. We are not all given the same things in the same amounts. The only thing we all get are time and chance and even those are dolled out in different measure but we are given the choice on how we will react with what we’ve been given.
With this in mind, the question is not whether you have piles of cash or piles of debt and frankly isn’t the specific quantity of time or money you are giving or saving each month. Here’s the real question – are you pursuing your will with (your stuff – money, talent, time) or are you pursuing God’s? That is the only question that matters for money – for anything.
Let’s take things out of the financial context for a moment and into the other favorite topic around here – orphan care. Many of us are judged incessantly for our efforts to help orphans. We’re told by some we’re saints because we give “more than they can” to help children in need. We’re told by some we’re crazy because we have a revolving door and/or we have large families. If you’re like us at all, you’ve had the discussion in your household about how many kids you should take in and whether or not you should be continuing down this path. These are good conversations to have, but should we get into the comparison game? Probably not. You’ve got folks like Dawn and Sophie with 9 kids each – should I feel “less-sacrificial” because I only have 4? I know some people who “only” have a license for 1 or 2. Does that mean they are not giving enough of their time and resources to help the Kingdom?
None of us can answer that for each other. Only God can answer that and hopefully when we’re having those family discussions THAT is the primary consideration – what does God want us to do? Personally in our home we’ve opened up to as much as the state will allow for us at this time and so far we’ve ended up with 4. Does that mean we’ll stay this way? Who knows – I suspect we’ll end up maxed out with 6 at some point and maybe will move beyond that – I have no idea what the future holds but the point is not to be focused on where we will end up but on being open to what God may bring our way – and seeking that out on a continual basis.
Isn’t that the same with financial resources? Some of us have more, some of us have less. Some of us are seen as financially wise for piling up cash, others see that as excessive hoarding of resources that could be used to further the Kingdom (or, in lay-terms helping feed the poor, take care of orphans & widows, etc.). The truth is, none of us can look at each other’s financial situation and determine whether or not someone is living according to God’s financial will purely by looking at someone’s personal balance sheet. Noah stored up resources in the form of building an ark that He was called to build – I’m purely speculating here but I’m sure there were some who wondered if his efforts and those materials could not have been better served by caring for the poor around him. Alternatively, those wondering in the desert were “punished” for collecting extra manna – I’m sure they could have collected extra and distributed to those who didn’t collect enough, if they’d been allowed. So who was right? Noah for storing up or the Israelites for only taking their daily bread? I’m hoping by now the point is obvious – we are “right” when it comes to finances when we are wholly and completely seeking God’s will for the resources we’ve been given.
I’m especially sensitive to this issue because at the current moment God has pushed us in the direction of having more financial resources rather than less. We own two homes. We could purchase more. We could purchase luxury cars. We could live in a shack in a bad part of town (we don’t) and either save or give thousands of dollars every month to the poor. We have a lot of financial options and with that we have to be responsible (meaning prayerful & wise) about what GOD wants us to do with the resources He’s given us. We’ve bought a larger home at least in part to accommodate more children – children we believe we’ll be adopting rather than birthing or temporarily providing a home for through foster care. Do we have to have a larger home? No, but with the larger home we know we need to be using it for God’s purposes, not our own – which means it’s not for our enjoyment (though we’re blessed with the ability to enjoy it) and we need to be open to how God might use it in the future. We have a 2011 minivan we bought new in 2010. Should we have spent $40K on a new minivan when a used reliable one would have cost much less? Maybe. We often get into the conversation around our house about luxury sports cars – will we ever have “enough” money to justify spending 150K on a car? I can’t imagine spending that kind of money on a car no matter how much money I had in the bank when I could be using that money to give to others in need but far be it from me to say that God wouldn’t use a fancy schmancy sports car worth that much money for His will. Living debt-free seems to be a valid principle too – though maybe there are times where God calls us to go into debt for something? Far be it for mie to say that He wouldn’t do that. I can say I certainly understand the burden of the “slave” much better than I would have otherwise having been slave to creditors.
So what is the right amount of money to have in the bank? What is the right income? What is the right amount to give away and what is the right level of sacrifice? We should sacrifice all as if it belongs to Christ himself – he gave his life far be it from Mie to sacrifice any less – to Him all belongs and if He provides mie with resources, financial or otherwise, far be it from any one else to tell mie what I should or should not be doing with them less I fall trap to losing sight of His will by turning my eyes to those around Mie. I have no idea what my financial future holds – daily I will walk with Christ and as I take each step I’ll get to see the outcome of His plans. I may die with billions in the bank – to be passed on to my children who are supposed to setup funds to provide for the needs of millions of God’s people – I may die alone in the desert, having lost everything and wandering for my next morsel of food or water. I don’t know what will happen in the future – what I know is that today he has given mie a particular resource and I will seek to use that resource for His glory today. Tomorrow I will do the same and and the next day and the next ending only when He gives Mie no more tomorrows.