Enough Already

How well do you deal with your finances? Is everything under control, or is this a major issue in your life?

Pete and I recently had the privilege of going to hear Ron Blue speak. He’s well-known in financial circles as a financial advisor, helping people with estate planning, philanthropy,  and investment management—all according to Biblical principles.

While most in the audience were wealthy enough to need a financial manager, we snuck in on the coattails of others. Still, his advice applies to everyone, no matter how much money we have or don’t have. In fact, it was very simple: practice contentment.

Oh, he added a few other principles—avoid debt, communicate with your family, maintain liquidity, plan, give generously. But by far the main point of the evening was Paul’s advice to Timothy:

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  (1 Timothy 6:6-9)

Interesting advice from a financial planner!

Over the years, Pete and I have learned that having money can enslave you. My dad once worked for a man wealthy enough to buy himself a Rolls Royce. The car made him miserable. Every time he drove somewhere, he worried that he might have an accident. When he parked it, he fretted that it would be stolen. At last he traded the Rolls for two Cadillacs and was finally able to relax! And Ron Blue told the story of the Sultan of Brunei, who was the wealthiest man in the world. He was so fearful of assassination that he lived in seclusion, a prisoner of his wealth.

No matter how much we have, we wonder if we have enough. We become fearful that we might suffer loss. Far from ensuring our security, having too much money tempts us to depend on our bank balance instead of on God.

At one point Pete and I considered our financial problems solved. Our ministry received a gift of appreciated stock that might have supplied our needs for a very long time. But selling the stock turned out to be a lengthy process complicated by our tax-free status. During that time the “dot bomb” exploded—and our stock lost most of its value. Of course we were dismayed, but looking back I wonder. Could I ever have learned to so fully depend on God if that money was still available?

When we were first married, we didn’t own a lot of things. Our wish lists were long—furniture, a house, a stereo, camping gear, linens—all the things we Americans think we need to set up housekeeping. Then we started having babies. It’s amazing how many accessories babies come with! Several years ago I was invited to a baby shower for a woman I worked with. She was a Colorado native, but her husband was from Ghana. As the gifts were unwrapped and the pile grew, he became more and more astonished. When we were done, he explained—here in America your babies receive so many things. In Ghana, we give the new mother a cloth that she uses to tie the baby to her back. That’s all she needs!

As I mentioned last month in my post on “Downsizing Dad,” we’re learning that it takes a lot more effort to dispose of our belongings than it ever did to acquire them in the first place. I wish we’d known that before we accumulated so many things.

I finally am beginning to understand what the writer of Hebrews meant: 

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

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