In Christ I am financially independent.
Can I really make that claim? I think I can piece together enough Bible verses to prove it. Otherwise I can just use logic. Unfortunately, I think my bank account is an atheist.
I guess it’s like being the son of Bill Gates—rich by association. I may not have access to the credit cards, but my dad’s not about to let me starve to death or spend the night under an overpass, right? I mean, when that guy asked Jesus about paying taxes, he told him to go fishing and find a coin in a fish’s mouth. Apparently it was easier to set up that scenario than ask his tax collector disciple for a loan.
But if coins are so easy for Jesus to provide, why do so many Christians struggle? Christians can go bankrupt. It happens all the time. Businesses fail. Emergencies happen. And God’s people end up on welfare or in their parents’ basements or on the streets.
Does God run out of coin-dispensing fish? Does he not want to bless his people? Maybe we’re too sinful to deserve it, or too ignorant about wise, biblical money-management techniques to sustain it. Are Charismatics the only Christians with enough faith to generate gold dust from heaven?
How can the children of God tap into their father’s unlimited resources?
Money is a touchy subject, especially with Christians. Let’s not pretend that money is not important. We need it. It can either strangle us or give us wings. This is as true for individuals as it is for any church or mission organization.
But, as Christians like to say, money is not the root of all evil. Money is just money. It’s the love of money that’s the problem, and very few of us would admit that we love our money. Not more than God. We’re just responsible. We do not waste what God has blessed us with. We don’t overspend. We don’t gamble. We are good stewards, grateful for every dollar. We give our 10%. We even give more when we see someone in need. And God blesses us back.
This seems to be our standard position—stewardship. But what happens when God starts messing with our money? Why would he?
Let me give you a couple examples from my own life:
I’ve never been a greedy person, but I was always a worrier, especially when I was young. I liked to feel secure. Money helped with that. In college, God challenged me a couple of times to give more than I was comfortable with, but he really ramped it up after I got married.
In the summer of 1998 Laurie and I both moved from L.A. to Sacramento to work for my in-laws, taking advantage of two paychecks plus free housing to help us save up for bible school. One day I was sitting at a stoplight and someone knocked on my car window. I pulled over and talked to the guy for a while, finding out that he needed $1,300 for this and that in order to get his life back together. He didn’t ask for all of it, but I had exactly $1,300 saved up for school, and sensed that the knock was more than a coincidence.
Yeah, the guy took my address, promising to pay me back, but he never did, and I didn’t expect him to. Did I get ripped off? Sure. But from my perspective it was a matter of obedience. I really believed that God was challenging me to give all my savings to a stranger, just to see if I would.
A few weeks later we had earned another $2,000 for the school. I went down to APU and saw my friend, Dan Gluck, leading worship in chapel. His guitar had recently been stolen, so he had borrowed one from a friend. One of his strings broke in the middle of a song, and in that moment I had a distinct sense that God wanted me to buy him a new one. I really didn’t want to, so I asked for some kind of confirmation. Just when I asked, a second string broke. After chapel I told Dan that God wanted me to buy him a guitar. Everything came out to exactly $2,000.
So we went to Bible School and ran out of money halfway through our time there. Thanks a lot, Dan! It took miracle after miracle after miracle to see us from January to the middle of May. When we returned home, it was with much more than a biblical education. We had stories.
God showed me that while I was busy white-knuckling my financial safety rails, my feet had always been firmly planted on the ground. He needed to pry my hands off the rails one finger at a time so that I could find my true sense of security.
After we returned from Bible School we found ourselves in one financial challenge after another. Sure, I had a church job and worked at a school, but neither paid well, and we lived in Los Angeles. However, with each challenge, we continued to see God work in creative ways to keep our feet under us, and it actually began to change the way we felt.
It was like working out. But with faith muscles. My brain always knew that God was able to take care of us. I never doubted that. But when trouble came, my emotions would slip off the rails. It took about a dozen solid miracles to get my emotions to match up with my brain.
These lessons were especially tested when God asked us to move our family across the country to go to seminary. We spent all of our money to get there, and arrived about $200,000 in debt if you count my upside-down mortgage and credit card. Even though I only earned about $150 a week for the first six months, we emerged from that time debt free. How? More miracles. But I already told those stories.
I know, we have to face facts. I’m a better Christian than you. I have more faith. And God loves me more. It’s that simple.
No, I believe that God is more than enough for anyone. And he’s available to everyone. But God doesn’t share hearts. He doesn’t want 10%. He insists on 100%. And sometimes it takes years and years to shove that percentage up. At least that’s been my experience. We’re still working on that percentage.
The process of tearing our fingers off the safety rails can be painful and scary, but I guarantee that the freedom on the other side is worth it. Financial independence is possible, but ultimately it will cost you everything.