Would you say that money makes you happy? The appropriate response is NO.
However, would you say that a little more money would make you a little happier? It’s fair to say YES.
Funny enough, our happiness is not connected to our bank accounts. Not at a global level at least. Most of the ‘wealthy’ countries in the world are at the lower end of the ‘happiness’ scale. (USA is an example) Where as some of the countries that are at the bottom end of wealth and prosperity are in the top ten of those who are happy. (Guatemala is an example of this). C.S. Lewis said, “Don’t let your happiness depend on something that you can lose”
Money is a funny thing. We need it to live, to travel, to eat, to get educated – many of the good things in life. However, we’ve seen money cause some nasty things in peoples lives, especially when it’s given too much value or prominence.
In Matthew 6 Jesus says, “You cannot serve both God and money.” Jesus is onto something here. Why? Because as good a tool as money is, it makes a really horrible god. Money wasn’t meant to be longed for or worshiped or coveted, it’s simply meant to be a resource to fund and fuel the lives that we are called to and choose to live.
“Money is a wonderful tool, but it makes a horrible god.”
Matthew 6 isn’t the only place the Bible talks about money. There are more than 1000 references to money, currency or related issues. If you’re wondering why, it’s because the bible is a book about people and community and relationships, and wouldn’t you know it, money is always in the middle of those things. The other reason is that money is tied to our values. If you’re not sure what’s important to you, check out your bank statement or credit card bill, those two things are a pretty accurate reflection of what’s important to us.
In the future we’ll spend a few weeks (posts) on a more thorough look at how our faith changes our perspective on money and resources. For this post, let’s just look at 5 beliefs that will lead to financial reconciliation or peace.
1. All we have comes from God.
This is the best place to start. Things often begin getting out of sorts with money when we forget who our provider is. I’ve said before that no matter what name is on your paycheck, hidden underneath there somewhere it says, ‘God gave this to me’.
Starting here adds two very important ingredients to our lives, humility and perspective. We can never get too arrogant about how much we have if we know that God is the provider. Wisdom says, “I didn’t get here on my own”. Faith says, “God had something to do with it.” Starting here will change the rest of the conversation on money.
2. I live joyfully within God’s current provision for my life.
In other words, Be Content (Heb 13, Phil 4).
It’s our human nature to wish for more. It’s our human nature to want what we don’t have. Think about how many times you’ve asked yourself what you would do if you won the lottery? I don’t even play the lottery and I ask myself that question. The Bare Naked Ladies asked this question in their classic song, “If I had a million dollars”.
Here is where we can get in trouble with debt. Bill Hybels says, “Debt comes from wanting more than God’s current level of provision for you life and arranging other ways to get it.”
Simplifying our lives includes living within our means; being content with what God has provided in each season of life we are living.
3. I want to honour God by giving my first fruits for his purposes in the world.
This might be the toughest thing to talk about when we discuss finances. Tithing, giving away 10% of your income, is an interesting shift for someone that’s not used to it. However, it can be the most freeing way to live if we fully trust God.
When you start with the first belief (above), this third one kind of comes naturally. The two main places in scripture we see this is Malachi 3:10
and Proverbs 3:9
. The problem with these verses is that we view them as (OT) law, when really they are simply a biblical principal to practice. When we view this as law we’re making it religious and discounting the New Testament and Jesus. Jesus came to fulfill the law, to move us away from the law and lead us to a new way of love. What do you think inspires more generosity, law or love?
The reasons you’d consider instilling this principal into your budget are…
– You trust God with your finances and believe that everything you have comes from him
– You love the local church and believe it’s the hope of the world
– You identify that giving towards causes that are outside of yourself is actually a healthy way to live
– You fully believe that giving a portion of your income is the best way for you to make things less about you. The more we give the more self-less we become.
This belief takes the most faith, but also reaps the most rewards. And the coolest part is, once you start giving that much away, your desire to give more actually increases.
4. I will set aside a portion of my income (10%) for savings, emergencies, later years, etc.
If giving reinforces that it’s not all about ‘us’, then saving, in the same way, reminds us that it’s not all about ‘now’.
Winter is coming. It always arrives. Sooner or later, something breaks down, somebody gets sick, a car stops working, a career doesn’t go as planned. You get the idea. If we only live in the present and don’t plan for the future, we will enter the difficult seasons of life unprepared.
Here’s the equation that has proven to work best for many wise people:
10 – 10 – 80
10% towards giving
10% towards saving
80% towards living
If your income grows you can always up the first two percentages. On the other hand, the last percentage should never increase, only decrease. Make sense?
5. Live each day, open to hear God’s whisper in your life about opportunities to bless others and make a difference.
Everything we’ve talked about up to this point can lead to the most amazing way to experience God in our lives. If we give, save, and then live on the rest, God can and will do wonderful things in and through us. Being responsible with our income will give us opportunity to bless others. Living simply will enable us to bless extravagantly. Who doesn’t want to experience that kind of joy and freedom with our finances?
Hope this was helpful. Feel free to engage the comment section of this blog if you have any questions.
Money, like time, is in scarce supply, once you spend it it’s gone, so use it well.
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small(er) group discussion:
Why is it difficult to talk about money? Especially in or within the church?
How have we convinced ourselves that money actually makes us happy?
Out of all the verses listed above, which one speaks to you or challenges you the most?
– How can money become a god in someone’s life?
Be honest with this one, what’s the toughest thing about tithing? Disregarding how some “christians” (especially those on TV) have ruined our view of giving, why is tithing a good principal?
– Share why it’s difficult or why it’s a beautiful thing. No judgement!
Is ‘saving’ as God-honouring as ‘giving’? If so, why?
Have you have ever been on the giving or receiving end of Belief #5? Perhaps you were blessed by someone listening to God…or…you listened to God and blessed someone?
Close tonight be praying for open hands, large hearts, wise minds and clean balance sheets. And anything else you’d like to pray for!!!
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A few tips on saving…
– If you have a work retirement, great, but don’t count (only) on that and government CPP for future years
– Don’t throw extra money in an RRSP if you don’t have to. Use up TSFA limits so that when the time comes to use this money, the government won’t tax you on it. RRSP’s are great if they help lower your taxes, but if you’re in a lower bracket, you might not really need those savings now and will be thankful later that you saved them in a non-registered account.
– Use any method you can to save: monthly contributions, change jars, bank the rest programs, etc.
– Use reward cards to your benefit: Starbucks, Canadian Tire, PC points, etc. Don’t spend more to get points, but if you are going to use these stores at least let them work in your favour a little.
– If you make some extra money with overtime or a surprise side job, don’t just blow the money, decide how to best use it (e.g. put 1/2 of it on your mortgage or car loan or in a savings account)
– of course, budget for everything
– tell your money where to go, don’t let it boss you around
* please note that we borrowed the above 5 beliefs titles from Bill Hybels.
Some might say that our life is made up of squares – lots of them. We fill them in with appointments and work and events. Some of us fill up every square and others of us try and leave as many of them as possible empty.
When talking about simplifying our life, we can’t really get too far into the conversation before mentioning our calendars and schedules. Our lives move forward (time wise) with every passing minute, hour, day and week. We can plan those minutes well or let them slide by into the past, never to be used again.
We are so busy!!! At least that’s what we tell ourselves and others. Isn’t funny when we’re asked how we’re doing, the most common answer is, ‘I’m so busy’. It’s almost like we’re bragging. You hardly ever hear someone say, ‘life is great, I’m really finding my rhythm, I’m experiencing a good balance between home and work and play, can’t really complain.’ What a boring answer right? One writer says when we respond without thought with ‘I’m busy’ that it feeds something unhealthy in us.
There are two approaches to time, we either use our calendar to help us steward our time or we let other things and people control how we use (and lose) our time. What if we saw our calendar as the primary tool to help us become who we want to be; more importantly, who God wants us to become.
In Ephesians 5, Paul says these words about time and opportunity, “Be careful then, how you live, as wise and not unwise, making the most of every opportunity.” What’s he getting at? Be thoughtful how you invest your time, your days, your lives. In light of this verse, we can ask one simple (or not so simple) question, ‘What if God were in charge?’ Bill Hybels says, ‘the thoughtful arrangement of your daily and weekly calendar is one of the holiest endeavors you can undertake.’ and ‘our schedule is far less about what we want to get done, and more about who we want to become.’
Let’s be honest, our schedules are very connected to our character and personality. We approach things by the way we’re wired. Some of us are morning people, some night people, some of us need naps, others not much sleep. Historical figures are great examples of this. Many of them worked within strange schedules, but it worked for them. One thing is for sure, our calendars need to match up with our values; with who we want to become. Jesus was the best example of this. Gordon MacDonald puts it so well; he says Jesus’ schedule was dictated by three things:
1) he understood his mission (Luke 19:10)
2) he understood his own limits (Mark 1:35)
3) he took time to invest in others
Time, like money, must be budgeted.
It’s in scarce supply and
must be used wisely.
Ask yourself this, what will it take or what does my schedule have to look like to be…
– a better friend
– a better spouse
– a better parent
– a good neighbour
– an awesome employee
– a better follower of Jesus
In order for us to become who God wants us to be we have to consider a few things in regards to our schedule.
Get the important stuff in first.
We’ve all heard the metaphor about the Mason Jar, the one about getting the big rocks in before you add the small rocks and pebbles. As old and worn out as that illustration is, it’s still very true. If we don’t plan to pray or to read or to spend time with family or to get the education we need, it may never get into our overwhelming schedule.
Fill the squares with words that reflect your plan and your purpose.
John Grisham, before he was known for his novels, was a lawyer. John had a dream to be a writer, so he included the word ‘WRITE’ in the hour square just before his work day started. He would go into work an hour early to write. He stuck to this schedule, and wouldn’t you know it, he became one of the most popular novelists of the late 90’s and 2000’s.
What words need to get into your calendar so they become sacred to you? READ, PRAY, FAMILY, HOME, RUN, DATE NIGHT, etc?
Make room to hear God’s whisper in your life.
Both Bill Hybels and Tony Campolo start their day with prayer. Hybels describes it as rolling out of bed and onto his knees. Campolo says he simply lays in bed for the first 20 minutes and prays. Are you making room for this in your life? If you want to know God more and desire that your life looks more like the life of Jesus, I’d suggest you make time for prayer and scripture. No other way to say it.
If you want to be intentional about your calendar being a tool to help you become who God wants you to be, here’s a final suggestion of what you should consider as non-negotiables to fill some of the squares in your life:
1 – make time to connect with God
church, a few minutes a day of reading and
prayer, small group, …
2 – make time with your Family
date night, play night, movie night, vacation, …
3 – make time to do good work
a plan to get better, to get ahead, to network
4 – make time for Recreation
– a plan to get better,
5 – make time to Exercise, sleep well & eat well
“Be careful then, how you live, as wise and not unwise, making the most of every opportunity.”
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small(er) group discussion:
When you think of your calendar what words come to mind?
When you’re asked how you are doing, do you find yourself often responding with, “I’m busy” or a similar phrase? Why? How does it make you feel?
Take time to read Ephesians 5:15. Does this challenge you in any way? If so, how?
What are some squares in your life that need rearranging? Which ones may have too much value? Which ones may have too little value?
Do you have prayer or reflection or scripture slotted out on your schedule? Why is it tough for some people to be committed to a few minutes a day?
Pray about being intentional with your time. If certain people in the group share about ways they want to simplify or grow in their time management, pray for that tonight. And pray that we would make time to become who God wants us to be.
During my teenage years my mom would regularly ask me to clean and declutter the garage; by regularly I mean every six months. She wouldn’t ask my brother, or my sister, or my dad, only me. Let me tell you, our garage needed decluttering. It was a mess on good days. It would get so bad that you couldn’t walk through it without feeling like you were in an obstacle course. I’ve come to realize there are two kinds of people, those with perfectly clean garages and those with very messy garages. You’d figure with all the practice I had that I’d be in the first group, but nope, my garage gets messy – really messy. However, when I clean it, it transforms in a spotless space, and my mom would still be very proud.
I’m sure you don’t have too look to deeply inside your heart and life to see and admit that our lives get as cluttered and crowded as some garages do. We let so many things into our life that things can’t help but get chaotic.
How many people do you know use words like this to describe how they’re feeling? Exhausted, tired, overwhelmed, over-scheduled, anxious, etc. This describes the rich, the poor, men, women, liberals and conservatives. It doesn’t matter who you are, things in your world get crazy. At some point we have to take stock at how things are going and make some decisions to simplify our lives.
Simplicity is a way of life, a calling, a certain way to balance all that life throws at us, by stewarding our time, our thoughts, our money, our gifts, our skills, our calendar, our emotions, our everything.
What if we could end each and everyday with gratitude for how we invested our day? Knowing that in each and every moment we chose what was best.
Simplifying takes work – it’s rigorous and hard, but worth every bit of the pain and discipline.
For those of us who are discovering what it means to follow Jesus, the purpose of simplification comes down to one thing, hearing the whisper of God in our lives.
In Luke 10 we read a very short, but powerful story about Jesus and his disciples finding themselves at the home of two women, Martha and Mary. Martha, as would have been first century custom, was preparing some food in the kitchen, Mary on the other hand made her way to the other room with Jesus. Martha comes over and gets mad at Mary…and Jesus. She actually asks Jesus if he cares – that’s quite the accusation for a man who would eventually sacrifice his life for the whole world, Martha included. She’s mad at Mary for not helping her with the food. Jesus, with kindness and wisdom, responds to Martha with these words, “a few things are needed…indeed, only one…”
Martha wasn’t sinning by making food. Martha wasn’t doing even doing something wrong. Martha did what she thought she should be doing. Jesus simply wanted to help Martha capture the moment. You see, in that very moment, the best use of her time was not cooking, the best use of her time would’e been to join Jesus and listen to his words (of life). Mary, at least in this moment, got it. Not only did get it, but she broke a cultural boundary in the process. Mary stepped out of the ‘place/space for women’ (the kitchen) and walked into the living area (where the men gathered)*. Think about the cultural significance of this choice – it was quite risky and gutsy. Martha didn’t know what do with it. Jesus takes this moment to affirm Mary’s choice. (these and other things often got Jesus in trouble…good kind of trouble)
Jesus wants to help us simplify things. He invites us to choose well in every moment; to unclutter what’s gotten in the way of us truly living so we are able to hear and listen to his voice.
For the next 7 posts (Sunday’s) we will look at how we can simplify the most important things in our life: finances, schedules, relationships and decisions. However, lets get to the most important part of this conversation first – Jesus asks us, like he does to Martha, to get this first decision right, to choose him. We will always be faced with decisions to choose well in every moment. This happens with our families, with our work, and with our health. Those are all important things. But to get those things right, you gotta get this first thing right – choose Jesus.
Is it hard to make time for this? Yes. Does it take some effort to put aside time to read scripture, pray, and gather with community? Yes. Was it extremely difficult for Mary to cross a social barrier to be with and learn from Jesus? Oh yes it was. Is it all worth it? For sure.
Simplifying is about choosing the right things in your life. Jesus is the first and most ‘right’ thing for any of us. Choose well.
* In the first century, there were only two places women and men were together socially, in the yard with their children or in the bedroom with each other. In every other setting, men and woman remained separate. In Luke 10, Martha was where she thought she should be. Mary, on the other hand, went into the room where only men gathered. You can imagine how this looked, what it stirred, and how risky it all was. But Jesus, among the many things he was known for, was well known for being willing to break down barriers. Mary must have felt quite the stirring in her heart to take the kind of step she did. Unfortunately, we still see some of these inconsistencies in human rights today. I’m so glad that Jesus calls us to break away from those misconception and live in full harmony with one another.