“He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish.” Proverbs 11:28 (NIV)
It was 150 years ago this year when Charles Dickens wrote his literary great, A Tale of Two Cities, set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. It depicts the plight of the French proletariat under the brutal oppression of the French aristocracy in the years leading up to the revolution, and the corresponding savage brutality demonstrated by the revolutionaries toward the former aristocrats in the early years of the revolution.
The opening lines are: ” It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Now 150 years later, these words speak to our land, our time, our society. No, we are not necessarily going through the same kind of revolution, but nonetheless, we are in a cultural, spiritual and financial revolution that is touching all of us, worldwide.
In many ways, it is the best of times. We live longer, eat better and enjoy pleasures of life unknown to our ancestors even a couple of generations ago. But in many ways, it is also the worst of times. We are morally slipping away from traditional Judeo-Christian ethics and are losing touch with traditional cultural values. Spiritual values have an influence on less people than ever. And, publicly, corporately and personally, we have overextended ourselves and are in a collective financial mess. Somehow, I believe that the moral, spiritual and financial declines are inextricably intertwined.
Here in America, we are experiencing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and there are no signs of it letting up anytime soon. People, even those with employment, are caught in a financial squeeze since they have presumed on the future, borrowed to live beyond their means and bought things to impress people they didn’t even like. And, statistics show that Christians, notwithstanding biblical teachings on the management of money, are no less immune to the current financial squeeze than non-Christians.
I recently participated in a retreat on Christian financial concepts and I was particularly touched by it. Perhaps the most meaningful time was when we were asked to take ten minutes of silence to hear what God was saying to us about finances, money and stewardship.
I wrote it down exactly as it came to me and it is giving me some new guidelines for material management in my life. I couldn’t wait to get home to share it with my bride and we talked about each point for a long time. We have made our share of bad financial decisions and are paying the consequences, but with biblical handles to work our way to financial freedom, we are moving in the right direction.
Here is what I wrote down in that exercise of ten minutes of listening to God:
- eliminate materialism in our life
- totally trust God to meet our needs
- simplify our lifestyle
- get totally out of debt
- don’t dwell on past financial mistakes and losses
- don’t fear our financial future…. Trust God
- be thankful for what we have
- be accountable to my wife and she to me in mutually agreeing on all financial decisions
- live within our means
- focus on God, not on money, things and security
- use the time I would otherwise worry about money and finances to focus in and on God’s word
- use the Bible as the best guideline for financial management and pray together asking God’s guidance before making any major financial decision.
Each of these are requiring some adjustments in our lives, some more than others, but we look forward to the spiritual growth at will come from it.
We are claiming Proverbs 3:9-10:
“Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the first fruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.”
So in these tough economic times, if you want true financial freedom, the Bible is the manual and God is the manager. Seek them both and you shall be free.
Questions: Are you living beyond your means and bought things to impress people that you don’t even like? What adjustments in your lifestyle will you need to make in order for spiritual growth to take place in your life?
by John Grant
John Grant is a former Florida State Senator and is a practicing attorney