When I was 19, my then-boyfriend told me that his mother, on a recent business trip, had been in a restaurant where people paid $50 for lunch—which would be three times that in today’s dollars. He said that he dreamed to one day be in a position to buy that kind of lunch. “That’s freedom!” he said.
A recent study done by Charles Schwab showed that in the United States, $2.4 million is the number that makes a household feel wealthy, and just over $1 million is what it takes to feel “comfortable.” Sadly, that means that only about 10% of the population in the United States is “comfortable.” And then there’s the rest of us! And regardless of where a household fell on the income spectrum, nearly every household reported “needing” just a little bit more. Never mind the vast majority of the world’s population living in developing countries, where such amounts would be considered vast fortunes accessible only to the wealthiest.
Reading the blogs of other people fighting debt helps me keep my resolve in focused debt reduction. As I browse articles that relate to where we’re at in our journey out of debt, I often sift out those to do with investments and savings. There is an overlap between writings on the subject of debt reduction and those on the subject of wealth building, and while I’m 100% in when it comes to eliminating debt, I struggle with the concept of building wealth. Where I associate debt reduction with becoming responsible, exercising discipline, and cleaning up my act, I have tended to associate wealth building exclusively with greed and selfishness.
A pastor once said, “Living right financially isn’t complicated; it may be difficult, but it isn’t complicated.” It’s difficult because living right financially is more than simply learning financial strategy and management techniques; living right financially has spiritual components as well. It’s important to have a godly view of money and to use it in the correct way.
In the early years of my business activities, I believed that money was everything. When my wife complained that there wasn’t enough love in our marriage, I retorted that love wouldn’t keep food on the table. Since I believed that material things were everything, I didn’t believe in God or His supply.
That changed gradually after I was introduced to the Bible. I started learning about God’s economic plan, which is based on love and sharing—quite different from the “me-first” materialism that had driven me up till then. This helped me readjust my priorities.
I’ve often wished I had a truckload of money that I could use to help others. There are many people I know who need financial help for one thing or another, and it would be great to have the means to be that help. I daydream of coming along and dropping a bunch of cash on my friends, family, and others, and watching them get out from under financial burdens and be free to enjoy life without the stress that money troubles can bring. As of now, I don’t have those means.
The apostle Paul addressed the issue of wealth in 1 Timothy 6:8–10: “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”1 Having money is not wrong, but loving money is. The abundance of money or the lack of money is less important than our spiritual condition.
In the course of working on this issue, I came across an inspiring story about two great men of God. I’d like to share it with you.
Charles Spurgeon, the famous evangelist, and George Müller, the thief-turned-Christian who founded and directed five orphanages, both lived in 19th-century England.
Nearly everyone in the world experiences financial pressure at one time or another, but some people deal with it better than others. The difference is often not so much these people’s circumstances, but to whom they turn for help. The secret to overcoming financial problems is actually the secret to overcoming any problem: Do what you can, and then rely on the “God factor.”
“I need money—lots of money!” My friend sighed deeply, stirring his coffee at our kitchen table.
“Why?” I asked him a little surprised. My friend wasn’t poor and seemed to have all he needed to be reasonably happy.