When one’s priority is to keep up with the expectations and values of those around you, it affects your time and money. You buy a bigger house and a nicer car (or two cars). You involve yourself more expensive recreations and social functions. These put you in debt and fill up your time. To keep up with the cost of your lifestyle you may need to work longer hours or even pick up a second job. If married, you may find that both of you need to work outside of the house. You see less of your kids so you spend more money on them to ease your conscience. These put further constraints on your finances and your time. You would like to give to God’s work. You would like to serve God, but you don’t have the time or money now. Maybe someday. It is a spiral of cluttered lives, all focused on meeting a cultural standard… not God’s standard.
The Bible says, “The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil.” Prosperity doctrines commonly say that God blesses with wealth those He loves. But the Bible describes many of those who God blesses with poverty. Money is not really the issue, it is one’s focus on God. Money can give one independence and opportunities, or it can be a huge burden that limits you actions. Much of that is based on priority.
To be proactively available, one must use one’s money (whether poor or rich) to increase freedom not decrease it.
- Poor use of money can lead to pride (Proverbs 30: ). That can lead to ruin (Proverbs ).
- Money can tempt one into new forms of evil. A certain amount of poverty does keep some without self-control from fully yielding to their vices.
To work towards financial and temporal freedom, one has to do several things:
- Refocus one’s priorities toward God.
- Control your vices. I define vices as habits that eat up time and money. They are not wrong of themselves, but can lead to evil. Whether one believes alcohol is wrong in itself, it certainly becomes wrong when it leads to loss of control—physical and financial. Likewise, collecting comic books is not bad of itself, but also becomes bad when it begins to gain control of one’s time and money.
- Simplify one’s life. Focus on what is most important and do it. We are each given 168 hours a week. Take out a generous amount of time for sleep and the hours you have left are what you have to live your life. Don’t get bogged down in things that don’t really matter. Dump things that complicate life. Leave behind habits that clutter your life. As Ben Franklin said, “If you love life, then love time. For time is the stuff that life is made of.”
- Dump debt. Some Christians will tell you that debt is inherently wrong. They will go to passages like in Proverbs that say, “Owe no man anything.” I would say that if you are paying your debts according to an agreed schedule, then you, indeed, owe no man anything. However, debt is a burden that must be dealt with. If you do not control it, it will control you. Debt that invests in the future (such as a business loan or a school loan) may be profitable at times. A credit card can help in minimizing the need for carrying a great deal of cash on travel. However, debt is often caused by frivolous desires and bad priorities. It more often hinders your availability.
- Shed all high interest loans.
- Pay off credit cards monthly. If you have a credit card, have one that does not have special fees or usage requirements.
- Car loans and house mortgages are a fact of American life. But try to pay down these loans at least to the point where you could sell your car or house easily for enough money to pay off your debt and have some money afterwards.
- Keep your assets somewhat liquid. If you say to God, “I will go wherever you want me to go, whenever you want me to be there” but your assets are tied up in things that keep you from going anywhere anytime soon, you have made your statement a lie.
- Save. Don’t save to hoard, or to blow on some big, new, frivolous thing. Save to maximize you ability to take advantage of the opportunities that God makes available to you for service. Some money should be put towards retirement (not all service to God has a good pension plan). Some should be kept available for use as God gives opportunity now. Savings is ultimately an investment.
- Give. This is not the antithesis of Saving. It is the reverse of the Deadly Spiral. If our priorities are to meet false standards and priorities, we spin out of control in an orgy of wasted money and frenzied activity. If we recognize that we are stewards of God’s gifts, we look at money as investment in God’s kingdom. That means we save some as an investment in the future God has for us. That means we give some now back to God. That is not a legalistic thing. Ignore artificial standards of good giving. God loves a cheerful giver. Having the right view of money helps one be cheerful. Give to the church, give to the needy. God blesses those who give. But I am not convinced that God blesses those who give to be blessed by God. Those who cannot give cheerfully of their money, are not likely to give cheerfully of their time to God.
It is a falsehood to say you will go anywhere God wants you to go at any time, if you have not prepared yourself to do it.