Focus on the Family

God's Big Idea About Finances

byRon Blue

For years I’ve said that "financial freedom" should be our goal. I published a pamphlet called the "Keys to Financial Freedom." I’ve written articleson how to experience financial freedom. In summary, I’ve taught that the pinnacle of doing well financially, giving cheerfully, managing debt, and so on is financial freedom.

My thought process was this: If a person is not a "slave to the lender" but has the right view of money and recognizes that God owns it all, then he is free. He isn’t caught up in the bondage of materialism. I don’t believe any of this teaching was wrong. But I believe the Lord has been showing me that contentment is the ultimate aim and result.

Many people misunderstand the idea of financial freedom. They see it as  meaning financial independence, applying it to people who have built up enough assets or income stream to work when they want, vacation where they want, and buy what they want. I’ve observed, however, that a person can be financially independent without being content. Conversely, a person can be content without being financially independent.

Besides avoiding the potential confusion between financial freedom and financial independence, I prefer focusing on contentment because that is the word the Bible uses. Here are a few notable examples:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought 
nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
(1 Timothy 6:6-8)

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with
what you have, because God has said,
"Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)

Taken from Faith-Based Family Finances, published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 2008, Ron Blue. All rights reserved. International Copyright secured. Used by permission.

How to Be Financially Content

Is financial contentment really possible in today’s society? A society where we are constantly bombarded with limitless options?

byRon Blue

Is financial contentment really possible in today’s society? A society where we are constantly bombarded with limitless options?A society where we are constantly told we will never be happy unless we have the latest innovation, the newest technology, the biggest-screen TV?

Before we consider those questions, let’s define the term. Contentment is being satisfied with one’s circumstances, not complaining, not craving something else, and having a mind at peace. I was teaching about contentment in a training session of financial advisors. One of the participants quoted to me what he remembered from David Jeremiah’s (pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in San Diego, California) definition of contentment. I like what I heard. He said that it has three aspects: looking back without regret, looking at the present without envy, and looking to the future without fear.

I am convinced that this definition of contentment has nothing to do with money. A person may have a lot of money or a little money and still miss the whole point of contentment. We can complain whether we have a little or a lot. We can be covetous just as easily with a lot of money as with a little. We can have regret, envy, and fear.

Wise King Solomon writes, “Whoever loves money never has money enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 5:10). Contentment has nothing to do with money. It’s a learned response. The apostle Paul states this very clearly: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:11-12).

The secret to which Paul alludes is the result of learning to think correctly about money and God. Contentment is learning to see money as God sees it, and nothing more. Money is a vehicle for providing for our needs and those of others, and funding can help advance God’s Kingdom. Contentment also results from learning to see God for who He is. He is the bedrock of our contentment.

I like what Major Ian Thomas, founder and director of the Torchbearers ministry, says: “All you need is what you have; what you have is what He is; you cannot have more; and you do not need to have less.”1

Only when I realize that the Creator God of the universe loves me and has my best interests at heart can I be content. Only when I realize He is sovereign and providentially in control of my earthly lot (my vocation and income) can I truly be content. Only when I learn to trust Him can I have contentment.

Contentment really is a spiritual issue; it’s not an amount-of-money issue. God is always there and never changes. He is consistent and stable. You can trust Him. But can you say the same about money? Proverbs 23:4-5 speaks to this when it says, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” How content can I be in something that flies away?

No financial principle can have a greater impact on you or free you up more than this truth: Money is not the key to contentment! Contentment has everything to do with your relationship with God and nothing to do with your money. Once you are free from the love of money and the pursuit of it, you can have a lot or a little and be content all the same. At that point you have learned the secret to contentment. It’s not just the families struggling to make ends meet who wrestle with this. Many families with high incomes struggle with contentment as well.

Taken from Faith-Based Family Finances, published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 2008, Ron Blue. All rights reserved. International Copyright secured. Used by permission.

What Does Financial Contentment Look Like?

The starting point for financial contentment is simply living within one’s income. How we handle what God has given us will indicate whether we have financial contentment or not. As I’ve spoken in various venues I’ve met many families who are content to live in modest houses, drive older cars, and enjoy entertainment at home. Perhaps the breadwinner is a teacher, a church staff member, or in the early stages of a career. Many times they’ve chosen a simple lifestyle to stay within their means.

I remember one family who told me they’d chosen to give up some of the materialistic items they could have enjoyed. Why would they give that up when the wife had a master of business administration degree? She desired to be at home with their young children rather than traveling at her former job and working 50 hours a week. The husband desired to work—and worked
hard—but his occupation didn’t pay as much as others. They could have followed the American Dream—and charged everything. But they chose to live within their means to reduce their stress.

On the other extreme, I remember returning from a trip where I met a man who earned in excess of $600,000 a year. Instead of being content and at peace, he was miserable. He had financial pressures because he was spending $100,000 more each year than he was making. The key to contentment in one’s finances is not the amount one makes, but rather a willingness to live within that amount.

Recently when I spoke to a group of men, I asked them how many of them were making twice what they were making 10 years ago. Every hand in the audience went up. I then asked them another question. If 10 years before they had been asked, “Would you be content if you were making twice what you’re making now?” would they have answered yes? Here again they all answered

But when I asked them if they were in fact content now, they said no. Thepoint is, their income had doubled, but they had not learned to live within that income. Therefore, they were not content. I have found in my counseling that living within one’s income is an indicator of contentment. Some people look for a great financial secret—the magic pill, the black box, the cure-all financial step. If you’ve bought this book, you’re looking for some helpful financial information. You might think, Enough of this touchy-feely contentment stuff. Give me the solution to why there’s more month than money or why my increased wealth doesn’t satisfy. Be patient. We’ll have plenty of detailed information in the remainder of the book.

Financial contentment has less to do with money and more to do with our attitudes, belief systems, and decisions. Financial contentment brings peace of mind. Despite the claims in commercials for financial service companies, financial security is not the same as financial peace of mind. Both may help you move further along toward financial contentment. But it’s possible to have financial security without financial peace of mind. Peace of mind comes from having:

• Eternal perspective
• Faith-based decisions
• Biblically wise counsel
• Financially wise counsel

Taken from Faith-Based Family Finances, published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 2008, Ron Blue. All rights reserved. International Copyright secured. Used by permission.

Eternal Perspective

Having an eternal perspective helps us deal with the earthly ups and downs, stock market highs and lows, and acquiring and losing of stuff. As author Beth Moore says, “All that will matter in eternity is the glory that came to God as a result of my life. I will be most blessed when God is most glorified.” If I’m concerned about God being glorified, then I’m less concerned about hoarding, giving my kids the best stuff, being comfortable, seeking a life of leisure, or keeping up with my neighbor.

The Bible reminds us of the brevity of our lives:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)

Faith-based decisions

I’ve been reminded in my recent daily devotionals of how faith is so vital to our relationship with God. If I’m exhibiting faith, then I’m pleasing God. If I’m pleasing my God, then it’s easier to be content with my physical and financial position. As the Bible reminds us, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). It takes faith to give a substantial amount to your church or a ministry. Faith is involved in launching a new career or business. It takes faith to give up immediate gratification now and invest for later.

Biblically wise and financially wise counsel

If you rely on movies, advertising, fashion trends, Hollywood celebrities, or the gang at work for your guidance and counsel, then you’ll not be content. You’ll be anxious and feeling as if you don’t have what it takes to be successful. But seek first God’s Kingdom and His counsel. The Bible compares the result of earthly wisdom and heavenly wisdom:

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find
disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes
from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate,
submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:16-17)

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking,
correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may
be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Taken from Faith-Based Family Finances, published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 2008, Ron Blue. All rights reserved. International Copyright secured. Used by permission.