It has been said that in the world there are three groups of people: the haves, the have-nots, and the have-not-paid-for-what-they-haves. This third category is well represented by the man who told his wife that they were going to start living within their income, even if…
they had to borrow money to do it. It’s a funny joke, but not a funny lifestyle. Honoring God with your finances is one of the litmus tests of genuine faith. As Jesus said, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
Recently I’ve been discussing the issue of debt and good stewardship in the life of the believer. So far, we’ve considered four practical ways to begin slaying the dragon of debt. Here’ a brief recap of the first four steps.
Step 1. Repent
Step 2: Understand Biblical stewardship.
Step 3: Stop unnecessary or frivolous spending.
Step 4. Make a plan to pay it off (and stick with it!)
To these four, allow me to add two more practical steps.
Step 5. Learn contentment, simplicity, and work-related virtues.
One of the most difficult hurdles to overcome in today’s world is living a contented life. We see what everyone else has and we want it too. The newest model arrives with added features and we feel compelled to update our stuff. We’re like little toddlers who covet everyone else’s tinker toys without even thinking about it. The heart of this issue is the question, “Where do I find my joy and satisfaction?” Is it in things? Experiences? Pleasure? Or God? If it’s in anything other than the Lord we will find ourselves, as Solomon said, “grasping at the wind”. Realign your satisfaction to be found in the Savior. John Piper has so poignantly said, “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.” I fear that we are pursuing “godliness” apart from contentment. You see the Bible says “godliness is actually a means of great gain when accompanied with contentment.” You may read your Bible, pray, etc. but your pursuit of godliness isn’t as satisfying as you desire. Maybe the missing ingredient is contentment.
Learn simplicity. This may sound odd in our “bigger is better” world but it needs to be heard. Richard Foster, in his book A Celebration of Discipline, shares some excellent insights into what simple living is about. He writes that simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle. While God may bless us with money, it doesn’t mean we have to be a slave to it. The Bible warns us, “If riches increase, set not your heart on them” (Psalm 62:10) because “He who trusts in his riches will wither.” (Proverbs 11:28) Foster adds, “De-accumulate! Masses of things that are not needed complicate life. They must be sorted and stored and dusted and re-sorted and re-sorted ad nauseam.” Consider streamlining your possessions to better reflect God’s priorities for you. And repeat to yourself, if necessary, the Biblical mantra of simplicity, “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” (1 Timothy 6:8)
Also, learn the Biblical virtues of hard work, diligence, and labor. These will help you better appreciate what you already have.
Step 6. Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul.
This is a funny expression. It was originally used at a time when taxes were collected at churches. And if a person was unable to pay all of their debts, they might take the money they owed at “St. Paul’s Church” and instead give it to “St. Peter’s Church”. It could also be expressed by saying, don’t take the food out of your sons mouth to feed your daughter. What I mean by this is, don’t pay off your earthly creditors by robbing your heavenly Father. Israel unfortunately did this. In Malachi 3, they were paying their taxes and bills, but they failed to give to God as He desired. He condemned them for robbing Him of what was rightfully His and for giving Him the leftovers of their offering. (Malachi 3:8-10) Are you regularly and cheerfully giving to God? (2 Cor. 9:7) If not, in your financial planning, be sure to purpose in your heart to give, off the top, something sacrificial back to God – as an expression of worship and obedience (2 Cor. 9:7). And when you truly honor Him in what you give, “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” (2 Cor. 9:10)