Finances. Ugh. They are on the forefront of our collective mind as a nation. Fingers point. People panic. This crisis shows the reality of our hearts. We are constantly trying to get something to fill us up. That something may be a new house, a certain car, miracle make-up, crafty projects, eating out, the newest recipe, new fashions, decorator items. Name the vice and we have tried it.
It is impossible to remain untouched by greed. We think we deserve certain luxuries. We know that just one more ______ will fill us and solve our problems (or at least make us feel better for the moment). Watching TLC or HGTV on certain days can create in me the equivalent of pornography–a lust for more. I can think that I am less than because of the house I live in…or the way I look. Ever use shopping as a way to make yourself feel better? A house or clothing or food is not bad in itself, but paired with the lust in our hearts to fill ourselves with something other than God, they become bad for us. In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us not to worry about those things–we are to seek him first and all will be added to you. Where our treasure is is where our heart is.
Everything meant for good is tainted by sin. So, we have to examine our hearts in the light of our financial decisions.
1. Can you afford what you are buying?
By afford what you have I mean–can you pay all your bills and not have debt? The big problem we have is that we are buying things on credit that we cannot afford or can barely afford. Do not get caught in the trap of keeping up with the Jones’ when you cannot afford what they have. (Hint: You do not even know if they can afford what they have–it may be smoke and mirrors.)
Take time to examine what you are spending, and make decisions with wisdom. If you have not made decisions with wisdom, get some help. (By help, I do not mean a “bail-out.” I mean start budgeting and making cuts of your spending in order to pay down your debt. You do not have to stay in this cycle.)
2. When making a purchase, ask why you need it and why you are buying it. Is this from an emotional need? Have you prayed about it? Is this wise? Self-control and self-discipline are a practice, not a gift. There are some things that you may think you need and cannot afford. This is the place we learn what true needs are and who our provider of true needs is.
3. Do not let the world dictate your decisions.
Just because you “can” do it does not mean you should do it.
For example, the bank tells you you can get a loan of $300,000 for a house. That does not give you a license to spend $300,000 on a house. That is the absolute limit. Think about the future. Think about your goals. You may be making a better decision to buying a $150,000 house so that you may invest wisely and give more money away. Just because you “have” does not mean you spend it all.
We always think, if I just made this much more, then I would be okay. In reality, people who are in debt making $30,000 a year will be in debt making $150,000 a year because they do not practice living within their means. There will always be one more thing to buy to fill ourselves or to keep up with our neighbors if we do not look at our hearts in regard to money and consumerism. This goes back to the ten commandments–do not covet your neighbor’s house, wife, etc. We need to learn contentment in Christ and where he has us. We can learn a plethora about ourselves in regards to how we deal with our finances.
4. Ask, how does this glorify God? Who and what am I treasuring through my financial decisions?
It is not as simple as do this and you are good–do this and your are bad. What is your motive? Where is your treasure?
If your treasure is here on this earth, pile up things and debt. You must get the newest fashions and send your children to the best schools and keep up with the latest housing trends. I will tell you, it is all emptiness. These things will not fill you, but follow your way. Most of us are following it–wide is the path that leads to destruction.
If your treasure is in heaven. Think about investing in people for eternal purposes. Think about how to make the most of God in your finances. It will cost you some here–friends, popularity, momentary pleasures. You will make decisions differently. You will learn that just because you can does not mean you must or will. You will learn that in a moment of weakness you might feel less than–or your children might. You may actually do some crazy outside of the box things. You may not upsize your house every 10 years. We are put here to glorify God and make known the treasure that he is–he is a treasure. Narrow is the gate and the path that leads to life. This is not easy. In fact, it is a constant battle, but it is a battle that brings true peace to the heart. Use the lack or plenty that God gives you for his glory–learn to trust.
This crisis is an opportunity for you to examine the path that you are on and what that path says about your heart. May we learn to treasure the Almighty God through his son, Jesus Christ, more than ever in this time.