Consider for a moment, a life filled with opportunities for improvement and advancement; businesses that flourish; investments that grow; success in everything you set out to do; and the ability to lend money instead of borrowing it. Would such a life be considered a financially independent one? Would you want such a life? Are you presently experiencing such a life? Did you know that this is a part of the life God longs to give His children? You can read all about it in Deuteronomy 28. For those who would like to have such a life, the big question is: “What must I do to get it?” God gives the answer in verse 1, “hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments . . .” When we obey God we are guaranteed success in our endeavors. Does that mean we won’t have trials and obstacles? No, it doesn’t! As a matter-of-fact we are told to expect them. But we are to press through and not let them deter us from what God has promised us. There are three things that God has asked us to do that greatly affect our ability to enjoy the life described above. Let’s explore them.
Love Not the World and Its Things
The world has a lot to offer, and many of its trinkets are quite costly! In our Western civilization consumerism has swept through the land like a tidal wave, and the casualties are growing in record numbers. Since people equate personal happiness with purchasing material possessions and consumption, they buy everything they can and cannot afford for a momentary surge of adrenaline. The truth is, things don’t bring happiness. Many of our highly paid entertainers and athletes are proof of this fact. But we can bring it even closer to home. Look at your family, friends, and/or yourself. Isn’t there someone who has gadgets galore, yet is unhappy, and maybe even downright miserable? Dr. David Myers, the John Dirk Werkman professor of psychology at Hope College, states: “Since 1957, the number of Americans who say they are ‘very happy’ has declined from 35 to 32 percent. Meanwhile, the divorce rate has doubled, the teen suicide rate has nearly tripled, the violent crime rate has nearly quadrupled (even after the recent decline), and depression has mushroomed. These facts of life explode a bombshell underneath our society’s materialism: Economic growth has provided no boost to human morale.”
“Affluence itself is not the problem,” states Dr. Gregg D. Jacobs, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “But rather living a life where affluence is the focus.”
John knew this to be true long before Dr. Jacobs. That’s why he said, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (1 John 2:15). Consumerism is driven by money, and didn’t Paul say that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10)? But there is something else Paul brings out regarding the pursuit of money in the latter part of that text. A love of money brings pain and unhappiness.
We would be wise to follow Paul’s counsel: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have” (Hebrews 13:5). How can you stop loving this world and become content in this consumer-driven world? Helen H. Lemmel gives a wonderful solution: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”
Owe no man Debt is glamorized in our society. Credit card companies try to convince us that we can have freedom with their card. They have now begun to target our young college students. The 2001 Credit Card Usage Analysis gave some alarming facts about undergraduate college students and credit cards:
• 83 percent of undergraduate students have at least one credit card.
• Median credit card balance is $1,770.
• 21 percent of undergraduates, who have cards, have high-level balances between $3,000 and $7,000—a 61 percent increase over the 2000 population.
Students double their average credit card debt, and triple the number of credit cards in their wallets from the time they arrive on campus until graduation.
These are teenagers and young adults who do not have full-time jobs, yet they incur a substantial amount of credit debt, not to mention their educational loans. These facts shouldn’t come as surprise when you consider the goals of many in this generation. A report issued by the Pew Research Center, How Young People View Their Lives, Futures and Politics, brings to light that the biggest goals for Generation Next (Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 years old) are wealth and fame. Unfortunately, debt is one of their biggest obstacles to achieving one of their goals.
It is not God’s plan that we be laden with debt, for debt keeps people in bondage. He wants us to be the lenders, not the borrowers! (See Deuteronomy 28:12.) All generations would do well to learn from Solomon, the wise philosopher who said, “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). Paul hit it on the nail when he said: “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another” (Romans 13:8). When you consider a debt of love and a financial debt, wouldn’t you agree a debt of love is more profitable?
Return an Honest Tithe and a Freewill Offering
You work hard every day only to have Uncle Sam take what you might describe as “a good chunk” out of your paycheck. Most likely you are not going to be interested in giving up another percentage to someone else. That’s understandable. But what if I told you about an investment with such high returns that you would not have enough room to keep up with it, would you be interested?
Here it is: tithes and offerings. If you return a tenth of your income (from the job He provided for you in the first place) and a liberal “thank” offering, God makes this promise: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10). Be sure to read the entire chapter to get more information on the subject.
J. C. Penney, founder of the well-known department stores, when he opened his first store pledged to tithe and give God an extremely generous offering. Today we know there’s no arguing with the outpouring of blessings he received! If you are not tithing and giving God a generous offering, try Him, prove Him, for 90 days and see what happens. I say this knowing that the God I serve cannot go against His Word and will do far more than you could ever imagine or guess!
Loving the world and its things causes us to incur debt. And when we are in the throes of debt we are tempted to keep the money to pay our bills instead of giving God the tithe and offering He requires. If you want to enjoy the benefits of financial independence, ask God for His help. He’s more than willing and able to grant your request.