Making Matter Matter: Chapter Five & Financial Peace, The Search for Inner Peace
One of the major barriers to experiencing true peace has to do with money. An important issue is the question of how we can achieve financial peace of mind. One of our great enemies is our inability to relate to and be comfortable with money.
The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Money is not evil; it is neutral. It is the love of money that is evil. I would like to add that the lack of money and the loss of money are also the root of much evil—or at least of much pain.
It took me a long time to realize what financial pain really is. The church has not helped much with finding financial peace. Our general idea of financial relief has usually been relieving people of their money! Let me say at the outset, this chapter is not a shakedown! I am not after your money.
We often limit our discussions of money in church to capital financial campaigns and emergency relief fund raisers. It finally dawned on me one day that I had never dealt with helping people discover Biblical financial peace. The format for financial peace is right there in the Bible!
Before I share it with you, let me first tell you a little about my own personal background so you’ll know where I am coming from. I grew up in a wealthy home. Money was everything. It was the measuring stick for most of life. I rebelled against this as an adult by going into a field where there wasn’t much money, and my father had a major problem with that.
For a long time, I preached that to have money was a sin and that Jesus wanted everybody to be poor. Yet during church building campaigns, we always appealed to the people who had money.
When I started a new church at the age of 42, I had to moonlight to make a living. I made more money than I ever dreamed I would. Suddenly I had a lot of money and I was overcome with the preoccupation of trying to keep it. Then I lost it all. I went through all of the trauma—first trying to get it, then trying to keep it, then losing it—and at no time did anyone tell me that the formula for financial peace is taught in the Bible.
Jesus gave us some great advice regarding financial peace in Matthew 6:19-33—take time to read this important passage in your Bible.
There are four disciplines in the passage that have helped me a great deal in the area of financial peace.
The first discipline is defiant self-esteem. I find that I must constantly defy the tendency to measure my self-worth by my financial worth. It is a self-esteem problem.
When I was a young minister, I knew a family whose 10 year old daughter was killed in a terrible accident. For an entire year, they didn’t go into her room. They left everything just as it was. Then one day they called me and said, “We’ve been through grief therapy and we need closure on this thing. We need to go into our daughter’s room, pack up her things, and put them away. We know that we must get on with our lives. We would like for you to be there with us when we do it.”
I went to be with them when they entered the room to pack up that little girl’s things and it was most painful. There were little stuffed animals, little boxes where she kept rocks, autograph books where she kept autographs of movie stars—things of little monetary value, but they were her prized possessions.
For the first time, the weight of what our possessions tell about us hit me. From childhood, we all begin to collect possessions, things that are uniquely and sacredly ours. It often becomes very difficult to separate who we are from what we have. As we grow older, the propaganda escalates. We are told if we go out and accumulate a lot of things, we are somebody. Do you notice what happens when a wealthy person walks into a room? The whole chemistry changes. Have you noticed that when you get a group of men together, fifteen minutes doesn’t pass without them talking about what they own. When you get a group of preachers together it won’t be five minutes until they are talking about how many people they had in church last week.
There’s nothing wrong with having things. Jesus did not teach it was right or wrong to be poor, middle class, or wealthy. It is a falsehood to say that He favored any one group. What He taught is that we must not measure who we are by what we have.
When I hear someone say, “I’m somebody because I have a lot,” it has the same effect on me as when I hear someone say, “I am a poor working stiff.” There is no such thing as “poor working stiffs.” There is no such thing as “blue collar people.” There are only extraordinary people. We are not what we have. Until we defy that myth, we will never have financial peace.
The second discipline I have learned to practice is delayed gratification. Most financial pain comes from people surrounding themselves with things they can’t afford before they can afford them.
In 1993, the average American household had $38,000 in debt. Now they have $46,000 in debt. The average credit card balance then was $800 and now it is over $1,100. Seventy percent of the American people live from one paycheck to another. We are all functionally broke without our weekly paychecks. Ninety-five percent of first time home buyers let the lender and the broker tell them how much they can afford. This is not an attack on them—the point is that we get into trouble because we are unable to delay gratification. We have bought into the myth, “buy now and pay later.”
Delayed gratification is not a popular subject, but the fact is that the philosophy of our Lord, Jesus Christ, is “pay now, enjoy later.” He said, “Don’t pile up things that rot. Pile up things that last, and then all the stuff will be added.”
The inability to delay gratification is a statement about your faith in God. People who cannot pay now and enjoy later have a fundamental problem. They don’t believe in later. If you believe in later and if you believe God will be with you in the future, then you can pay now and enjoy later. But if you believe there may not be a later, you must get all you can, and run up the bills and the “devil may care” —in the end, you’ll pay!
I remember running up a big debt in the late 70’s and 80’s. In fact there was a philosophy then, “A dollar borrowed is a dollar earned. A dollar extended is a dollar saved. A dollar paid back is a dollar lost.” I learned a hard lesson back then: You always have to pay it back. I thought you could just borrow yourself into eternity.
The inability to delay gratification is a basic statement about our faith. It means we don’t believe in later. We only believe in now.
The third discipline is deliberate giving. We are all trained to deliberately get—to plan, premeditate, go to all the seminars, go to school and learn how to practice getting. But nowhere are we taught to deliberately plan our giving.
We sometimes say, “If we have something left over, we’ll give.” There’s one problem with that. If you spend your life methodically getting without any way of deliberately giving, you lose your humanity. Jesus only called one person a tool. It was the rich farmer who planted a bumper crop, had an all-time windfall, built bigger barns, and said, “I’m going to do nothing for the rest of my life.” (Luke 12:16-21)
This man started out a human being, but he ended up a storage bin. Most people think he died that night, but if you read the context properly, the moment he lost his concept of giving, he lost his life.
The problem with deliberate getting without a planned program of giving is that you lose your life. That is why the Bible repeatedly suggests that if you claim to have faith in God, then you need a deliberate plan for giving. Give first to God, save a percentage, and spend the rest.
When I was a young man in Bible college, I once drove the great industrialist R. G. LeTourneau to the airport. I had just been a Christian a few months, Lois and I had a little baby, and we made about $200 a month. While I was driving him to the airport in my well-financed car he asked me, “How much money do you make?”
“About $200 a month,” I answered.
“Do you tithe?” he asked.
“Well, you know my wife takes care of all the expenses,” I hedged.
He asked me again, “Do you tithe?”
“I don’t really know,” I said.
“Yes, you do,” he challenged. “Let me tell you something that will help you. I started out working making 35 cents a day. When I became a Christian I decided that I couldn’t be a hypocrite and divide my spiritual life from my material life. I decided to give God the first 10% of everything that came into my hands. I gave him three and one half cents of my 35 cents a day.”
Then he said, “Now (this was in 1958) I make $35,000 a day and I give 90% away and live on 10%.”
I was thinking, “$3,500 a day—I could get by on that!”
Then he said, “Let me tell you something. It is just as hard for me to give proportionately now as it was in the beginning.”
I read an amazing statistic recently. It said that 67% of American Christians who tithe make $30,000 or less a year. Retirees on pensions give an average of 2.4% of their money to charity every year and people who make $100,000 give only 2.1%.
The difference in giving has nothing to do with the amounts. Jesus never talked about amounts. He talked about freedom. The only way to keep from being enslaved by your stuff is to have a deliberate plan for giving.
I was in Los Angeles a few weeks ago and drove by the magnificent Mormon Temple located downtown. I hear they have several other temples similar to it in the United States. The Mormons insist on tithing. They have learned that deliberate getting must be balanced by deliberate giving.
The church I pastor is a church based on grace. You don’t have to give to be accepted. You can drink from the fountain and partake of everything without tithing. Giving is not a condition of membership. You can give nothing and talk as much and vote on policy. But I often think, “What if we had 1,000 families who tithed because they wanted to? For every dollar we spend at our church, we could give one dollar away!”
The fourth discipline is what I call divine dependence. All of our financial pain comes from one basic problem: Whom we depend on. We are broken, we are sinners. We worry over money because we are afraid we are alone. We are afraid God will abandon us. I am as guilty as you are of forgetting the fundamental principles of our faith which Jesus revealed in Matthew 6:19-33. We are afraid we are going to be abandoned.
As I approach the autumn of my life, I often find myself thinking, “Who is going to take care of me? What if I can’t dress myself or shave?” Am I the only one who thinks about things like that?
Jesus said, “Those are the things the pagans—people who don’t have a god—worry about. But you have a Father who will take care of you.” Financial peace all comes down to whom you depend on. Whether you have a Father you can trust—and if you do, you’ll be free.
Why not sit down this week—as a family—and put your finances in the hands of God and decide to depend on the Father for your finances? Practice these four disciplines which are the keys to financial peace:
You can be set free from the bondage of financial worry if you dare to take that leap of faith and begin to do what God says to do. The Biblical plan for financial peace will change your life.
- This series of Posts is based upon Dr. Gerald Mann’s book The Search for Inner Peace. The author and the MakeTrix have received the permission of Gerald Mann’s wife, Sandy Mann, to use the contents of his wonderful masterpiece in this series of articles. We are honored and humbled and wish to thank her for her generosity. This series is of course, and as always, provided free at no cost to the reader.
- Dr. Gerald Mann, The Search for Inner Peace (Austin, TX: Gerald Mann Ministries, 1999), pp. 51-65. ISBN: 0-9678502-0-7, Out-of-Print.
- For more information, read our posts: Introduction to the Search for Inner Peace, Challenging Our Illusions, Accepting the Truth About God, Dealing with Guilt, & Giving God’s Forgiveness.