Securing your future and your family

From the Old Testament story where Esau sold his birthright for a simple meal, a pot of stew, to the New Testament where Zacchaeus sold his heritage to gain the wealth of being a tax collector for the Roman Empire, the Bible has stories of men who made horrible decisions with their wealth and assets. Zacchaeus learned better, as did Esau, but those stories and many others illustrate the power of the present to steal from the future.

It isn’t just financial decisions where this happens. King David, described as a man after God’s own heart, Acts 13:22, gave away his integrity for a night with Bathsheba, 2 Samuel 11, to which he then added murder by planning the death of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah.

There is one weakness far too many people have that leads to moral and financial calamity far too often and that is the human weakness against taking the long view – impulsivity, or a lack of impulse control. Impulse Control Disorder (ICD) is now a recognized psychiatric disorder, one listed in 2013 in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5, (DSM-5), of the American Psychiatric Association. But whether impulse control rises to a level of a psychiatric disorder or not, a lack of impulse control without any doubt causes enormous financial stress on people and families.

“Needing” that latest electronic device with the newest and flashiest features, having to eat out at that new restaurant, “craving” the newest fashion clothing, model car or phone; all of those and more lead to the moral equivalent of Esau selling his birthright and financial future for a present pleasure and King David selling his integrity for a night of pleasure.

Hold it! Isn’t that a bit extreme, calling those moral equivalents? Actually, no. Trading your financial future for a new TV, phone, car, or even a new home is not morally different than Esau selling his birthright (his financial future) for a meal. King David’s sins of adultery and lying, not to mention, murder are no less nails in the hands of Jesus than the sins of greed and selfishness. There is no question that greed and selfishness are sins.

Psalm 119:36
36  Turn my heart toward your statutes
and not toward selfish gain.

Luke 12:15
15  Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

James 3:16
36  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

Philippians 2:3-4
3  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
4  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

But is keeping what God has given to you for your own benefit and pleasure, selfish and sinful? The answer is that it is not necessarily sinful, but, as Jesus said in Luke 12:15, we must be on guard. We are not told by God that we must give everything we own; that was never set as the standard. While there are examples of people giving everything, their lives included, Mark 12:41-43, Acts 2:42-47, Acts 4:32-37, Acts 7, God has not told us that everyone must live by the same standard, have no possessions, and give away everything either to or for Him. Abraham, the father of faith, was a wealthy man, Genesis 13:2 and Romans 4:16, as was Job, who was considered to be blameless. Job 1:1. Instead, believers have a personal relationship with a loving Father who allows us a range of responses. Despite that, He has made it clear that what we have been given by him is a gift to be used to serve Him and available to be given away for His glory.

2 Corinthians 9:11-13
11  You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
12  This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
13  Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.

Is it easy to hold onto too much and shut God out of consideration? Of course, it is – that is what is often called self-dependence or self-reliance (and that is sinful). See Luke 12:13-31 for the story of the rich fool who was the quintessential self-reliant man. His fate is not one desired by anyone I know personally.

Luke 12:20-21
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

So, the question must be faced; how can a person resist both the sudden and the long-term impulse to have more? How can a person stay in step with God’s heart?

First, ask yourself if whatever you are about to do, as well as the way you are about to do it, honors God. If it does, then chances are it is a good choice. If not, chances are it is a bad choice.

Second, ask what the long-term use and benefit of what you are doing or buying will be. Pleasure for a moment or even a period of time might be just that, pleasure; but is that the direction God would have you take your life?

Third, ask if what you are doing or buying will interfere with any other goals, short or long-term. Will this set back your goal to tithe or to bless the Lord with a special gift? Will this set back your short or long-term savings goals? Will this break your budget for the week or month? Does this keep you from a mission trip or from funding a mission trip for a friend? Will this keep you from contributing to your retirement fund this month, or your kids’ college funds this month?

Fourth, pray about you true motive for what you are doing or buying. Is this necessary? Are you “comfort shopping” or otherwise just for the pleasure of having more?

Fifth and finally, stop, wait, share, and pray. The greater the purchase or the larger the commitment of time or risk, the longer the wait. During that wait, pray and consult others who are like-minded in faith and who will be honest and forthright in response. You are seeking God’s will, not confirmation of your own desires.

These questions serve to draw attention to the word “stewardship.” You are not an owner of what you have; you are a manager, or a steward. A steward is a person who manages something for the true owner. See What About Stewardship? for more detail on our role as stewards.

The parable of the talents or the bags of gold makes the point of our stewardship well. See Matthew 25:14-30 and see What is Biblical Stewardship? for detailed comments on this deep parable. The Master left His estate and as He was leaving He put 3 servants in change of different amounts of money. One was given five bags of gold, another was given two bags of gold and the third was given one bag of gold. The first two put the Master’s money to work and earned a reward, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” Matthew 25:20-23. The third did not have a trusting relationship with the master, buried the gold and, while he kept it safe, he did not put what the master had given him to work. He earned condemnation, “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.” Matthew 25:26-27.

God did not give us wealth so we could hoard vast riches, so we could be financially secure, so we could be financially independent, so we could live in splendor, comfort or ease, He gave us what we have to put it to work for Him.

How can you best do that? You give to Him as a recognition that it is all His anyway and in worship. 2 Corinthians 89 and Acts 17:24-27. You work hard to bring glory to Him through your effort. Colossians 3:23-24. You support your family well and responsibly, 2 Thessalonians 3:10 and 1 Timothy 5:8, teaching them stewardship through your life. You save to help support yourself and your family. And you live a life that is generous toward both God and others. Acts 20:35.

God loves us and wants only the best for us. However, His view of what is best has a very different perspective than mine. Paul prayer to have the troublesome thorn removed from his life. 2 Corinthians 12:7. Rather than remove that unknown but doubtless severe affliction, God instead chose to give Paul the wisdom to lean into Him and the strength to persevere. Would Paul have preferred comfort? Because he prayed for relief, I am confident comfort would have seemed better. Instead, Paul gladly accepted God’s sovereignty and His wisdom – Paul was better with the affliction than with comfort.

Does God want you to do without something you need? No. Does God want you to do without something you want? Perhaps, but only if it is best for you. Trust in Him, especially with your finances.

Proverbs 3:5-6
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.