By Matt Fraser
Ever know someone who when nuts over a cute dog, and then the next time he saw puppies for sale in a parking lot, he just HAD to buy one? Did he find out a short time later that cute, little Fido had an appetite for leather dress shoes and an affinity for pulling out all the foam from couch cushions? Maybe he even eventually discovered that what was supposed to be a Chihuahua/ Tea-cup Poodle custom breed, actually grew into a part Pit Bull/part Great Dane mutt. Then when he started paying more for dog food than his own food, and fixing holes in the drywall became a nightly ritual, he started to realize what he had done. Stories like this usually end up with a sad trip to the pound for what was supposed to be man’s best friend. The dream of having a sit-on-the-couch, ears-ready-to-scratch, fun-in-the-sun buddy is gone!
Maybe that scenario is a little extreme, but how many times do we make decisions based on how we feel, how we think we should feel, or how we think we are going to feel, if we can only do or get such and such? How many times do these types of decisions make a lasting, positive impact in our lives? Take a moment for some self examination… Surprised? Don’t be. If you watch TV, listen to the radio or surf the Web, you’re under a constant barrage of advertisements trying to get you to purchase based on emotion.
Falling for an emotional-based appeal to buy cologne or food is one thing, but major financial decisions made on a roller coaster of emotion are dangerous. When I say “finances,” feel free to imagine anything you consider valuable under your control, and the physical and emotional ties to it. Finances touch almost every aspect of our lives. I would venture to say they are the strongest cords that bind us to the world. The same money that buys groceries to sustain us can pay for a visit to a porn site. Our tithe can easily go to buy beer. The flight miles we earn with a credit card can be used on a mission trip, but at what cost? We might have dug ourselves so deep in debt in order to earn them that we become bound to that same credit card company for life.
I sometimes think of finances as similar to driving. Just as a car has a steering wheel to direct it, a gas pedal for acceleration, brake pedals to stop it, and mirrors to watch out for the potential obstacles as it travels along the road, there are many tools available to help us control our finances. Maybe no one ever really taught us how to drive, but we have to get to work, so we are doing the best we can. Maybe we think we have it all under control, but then suddenly, our car is careening down the highway heading toward a cliff. We never even saw that patch of ice we just hit. Good driving takes practice and knowledge. These are both essential to healthy financial living, as well. The plan is to cover these topics in future issues, but first it’s important to think about our starting point.
The starting point is the destination. I know, that sounds contradictory, but if we don’t know where we are going, although we may be a good driver, we’re worse off than being lost: we’re just wasting gas. Allow me to offer more than advice – let me state the obvious truth. At some point each of us will cast off all we own, all that represents our identity in the world, and stand before the One who created us. If we trust Christ alone for our salvation, we will pass from death into life. That will be a marvelous transformation. If not, we will experience eternal separation from God. The ultimate crash.
Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This reality should color the way we conduct ourselves financially here on earth. If we are bound for heaven, is it acceptable to throw our money around however we feel like at the moment?
“Why not?” you may say. “This world is only temporary; I’ve got a permanent place in heaven waiting for me. I have 60 some years left to live, if the Lord gives me a full life. I only get to enjoy it once, right? Why not leverage what I can with loans and credit cards?”
That would just fine if God didn’t care; if He did not have plans and expectations for us. God has given us a promised destination, but on the way He’s given us rules of the road and errands to run.
The Bible is God’s revealed Word. Much of it tells us what God expects from us as His children. In addition to God’s revealed Word, we may have a special burden that God has given us to direct our lives – a calling that is only for us. When we examine our financial life, we need to look at how our financial choices line up with God’s revealed Word, or a direct word He has given to us, personally.
I leave you with a question that I hope bothers you until you can give a confident answer: How do your financial decisions positively support your relationship with Christ and the goals He has given you? I’m writing this and thinking to myself, “I’m not sure if I can answer this question and be proud of my answer, either.” Looks like we’ll be travelling down this road together. It may not always be a joyride, but thanks be to our Lord and Savior who gives power and wisdom to those who seek Him.
By Matt Fraser