For those of you who are part of Harvest Fellowship Church, you know that we had a recording failure in the middle of our current series entitled, “Get Rich Quick”, whereby the message that I have prepared here for you in this blog, was lost. As I have had so many requests for that message and have seen so many sad faces, I have decided to put it into blog form. So, put on a pot of coffee. It’s going to be a long one!
Recently in our series entitled “Get Rich Quick”, I identified that the primary issue that drives poverty is bad thinking. (For a link to that series, click here) Personally, I have had to reprogram much of the way that I think, and I’m still definitely a work in progress. As a result of my own journey with the Lord, I have identified of number of patterns of thinking that keep people in the cycle of poverty.
The first pattern of thinking, as with all negative patterns, actually finds itself rooted in a lie. But this lie is perpetuated by the culture that we live in here in the United states. We believe that the accumulation of stuff makes us prosperous.
The sense is often that I won’t feel poor if I have stuff. Perhaps that’s not what people are consciously thinking, but when you break it down, that’s kind of the result. But prosperity isn’t measured with stuff. It’s measured with freedom. How free are you? Did your recent purchase make you more free or less free? As an example, let’s just say that I have taken a loan out for my automobile and that my payment is $500/mo. No matter what, I now have to make that payment every month or they come take that car and my credit gets trashed. So the question is, has this given me more freedom or does it sound more like bondage? Proverbs says it this way.
Pro 22:7 The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave. NASB
If you owe someone money, what happens if your life situation changes? What happens if you are downsized or your income is decreased for one reason or another? You are hosed! So material possessions don’t, in and of themselves, make one prosperous then. And the more stuff I have, the more stuff I have to maintain. If it’s something with a motor, that means oil changes, battery changes, tire rotations, cleaning, etc. All of that demands my time and takes away my freedom.
I see people all of the time who evaluate whether they can afford an item based on the monthly payments. “It’s only $300 a month, so I can manage that”, they might say. If you can manage $300 a month, you should have already been managing it, anticipating that you would need a vehicle or whatever else you are looking to purchase. Spontaneity in finances equals poverty. “But it’s a good deal.” “But it’s on sale right now for this amazing price.” There will always be another sale. Go ahead and say that to yourself a couple of times, because you are going to need this in your head at some point. You are never going to get on top of your life and prosper beyond your current place if you can’t begin to plan properly for your future. If you don’t have cash in the bank for whatever you are buying, you can’t afford it, period! I would even take that a step further. If you don’t have cash in the bank for the item that you are purchasing as well as a significant emergency savings that you never touch, and if you have not started saving for your future needs, you can’t afford it!
If I have waited, budgeted, and saved my money towards something, it eliminates much of the bondage that I would have otherwise come under. It also helps to keep me from an emotional purchase. What if my economic situation changes? It doesn’t matter. I paid cash for it. At that point, if things got bad enough, I could even sell my automobile or other items and use that cash. If I have taken a loan on it, you can just about guarantee that I am upside down in it and that even if I sold it, I would owe money. That’s bondage!
So many have a mentality that says, I work hard. I deserve this. I deserve to have something nice for once. Unfortunately, this is still a poverty mentality. This is a snare of the enemy. It’s a trick that causes you to move outside of biblical finances to a place where the enemy can devour your money and bring you into bondage. The moment that you have these thoughts, you have moved outside of contentment, which is a place of tremendous freedom. It’s not that the Father doesn’t want to bless you. He does! But you can only be trusted with that which won’t kill you. How many would choose to win the lottery if they knew in advance that it would destroy their lives? Not many. Further, let’s not forget the parables of the talent and the minas. If we don’t learn the lessons and move into a place of wise stewardship, we will never advance out of our situations. That’s on me, not God. I guarantee you that He will uphold His side of the bargain. But will you uphold yours?
The next point is this: You don’t need it right now!
Everyone has a different definition of need, but what do we really need to survive? Very little actually. In my family’s travels overseas we saw impoverished people whose home consisted of a fire pit, a tarp, and a bamboo post. They weren’t beggars. They had a job which provided the basic things that they needed. A couple of different times in our history, to include when we moved here to Warrensburg, Misty and I didn’t have any furniture for our living room. Some people reading this would consider that a need, especially considering the requirement of our job to be hospitable, but it’s not. It’s a want. It’s a luxury. We were just fine sitting on the floor. I would rather sit on my carpet than to go into debt and bondage to buy a couch. Eventually, a couple of really nasty, beat up, but free, love seats came available and we put those in there with covers that we had gotten free, covers that were way too large and required constant adjustment. As far as I was concerned, God had provided. We were content. But you have to understand what I mean by that. I don’t mean that I settled for junk and that I was excited or perfectly satisfied with where I was at. What I mean by content is that I had what I needed and it was good enough for the time being. I wasn’t going to lose any sleep over it. In this place of contentment, as one who properly budgets my money, who forecasts for the future, and who trusts God to provide for me, I knew that eventually we would be in a position to move this want up on our priority list. Until then, I was grateful that I had couches, even if they were ugly and dirty. In looking at the space and dreaming about what I wanted to put in there someday, I told my wife that I thought that a sectional would be a good fit. I think it was a year later that a military family had a nearly new sectional sitting on their driveway marked free. A friend of mine even loaded, delivered it to me, and helped me carry it in. God had given me the desires of my heart even before we as a family had put it on the priority list. And this is what I find that He does. When I am content and grateful right where I am at…..when I manage my finances with His wisdom, He blesses me.
Prosperity is getting to the place where I am content, where money isn’t a stress for me, and where I am ready and equipped for every good work that God puts before me. It’s the freedom to get something if you need it without stress. It’s the freedom to give away a bunch of money and to bless people’s lives…to bless the kingdom. I can give when I want to give and receive when I want to receive, all without obligation or pressure.
If we are going to prosper, we have to begin to evaluate our needs vs. our wants.
If you are in poverty or in a position where you can’t meet your bills based on the income that you have, it’s time to cut out the wants. Look at the following list and evaluate for yourself whether these things are needs or wants. I’ll give you a hint. There are only 2 that are needs.
An antenna for my tv
My tv broke…should I purchase another one?
Internet at your home
Other snacks, candy, etc.
Beer & cigarettes
Christmas or birthday presents
Name brand items
Kids playing sports
Ok, so hopefully you’re getting the idea. The first thing that you have to do is to stop long enough to actually see where your money is going. One of the most fatal mistakes is someone who looks at a want and says, “well it’s only a couple of bucks. It’s not that big of a deal.” It is that big of a deal. If you are $200 short every month, you can’t stop and get a coke at the gas station. That’s a want. You need to cancel your cable. That’s a want. Frankly, I would go so far as to limit the use of electricity and stuff like that as well, if that’s what it took. Let’s say that you have canceled everything that you can cancel, that you buy just the bare bones at the grocery store for you and your family…that you have really pared your life down to the basic necessities, and you still aren’t able to make it. Obviously a better job is in order, but I would rather stuff my family of five into a studio apartment for $300 a month until we can get ahead, than to stay in my 2 or 3 bedroom apartment for $500/mo when I couldn’t afford it. Just remember, you may be broke, but you aren’t poor. You won’t always be in that place. You have to be willing to take a hit now so that you can secure your future. This is where rubber meets the road. God says that if you are faithful in this place, he will advance you. But you have to be faithful.
Poverty thinks in terms of handouts.
This kind of goes part and parcel with everything that I have already said. “ It’s ok if I run out of groceries. I’ll just go to the food bank.” “It’s ok if I don’t save for a rainy day. The church will just help me out.”
And so what happens is that we refuse to make the necessary sacrifices in our lives to be self-sufficient. In many cases, people feel like they are already making enough sacrifices, because they already don’t have enough to do the things that they want as it is. But this too is a poverty mentality. We will never get ahead if we are continually dependent upon others. In most cases, we begin to depend on others, not for survival, but so that I can live at a higher level. If I have luxuries like cable, internet, cell phones, and many of the other things that we have already listed, and I’m not able to pay all of my bills…and my answer is that I am asking others for help; people aren’t helping you survive. They are subsidizing a lifestyle that is above your means. Much of what we have in the US is a luxury. It’s time to start telling yourself no. It’s time to start telling your kids no.
Faith Vs. Presumption
Here are a couple of things that you have to watch out for.
- Tax return is coming, so we go out and purchase something under the assumption that money is coming.
- I get a bonus at work every year, so I build that into my budget and depend on that income to meet all of my needs/wants.
- In the same way, I budget in my tax return. I am dependent upon that money coming in to survive.
These scenarios are recipes for disaster. What happens when your bonus check doesn’t come in? What if you don’t get as much of a tax return at the end of the year? These things can enhance your life, but they can’t be a dependable part of your budget. This is part of living well within your means. However, you can take one year’s return out (once you have received the check) and put it into a special account that you have already predesignated. For example, if you get $2000 back in taxes, that’s $165/mo by 12 months. If I wanted to distribute this to myself in monthly increments to help offset my food budget or another category, that would be fine. The difference is that I have cash in hand and that I will be reevaluating that budget each year depending on the amount of my return. However, with rare exception, I would never even use my cashed out return to pay for my rent. The reason is because this is a fixed figure. I have to pay my rent and if I am depending on a tax return that may vary, or not come at all, I am again setting myself up for trouble. What happens next year when I don’t get as much in my return? The food budget is safe, because it is something that can be changed. Worst case, I can fast. Set expenses come out of set income.
In charismatic circles we can get into a different kind of trouble.
- I make the declaration that I am blessed and prosperous and that God wants me to do well….even perhaps acknowledging that God is my provider, but then I go into debt to support that theory. This isn’t living by faith. I don’t step out in my day to day lifestyle beyond my means claiming that I have faith for God’s provision. This isn’t wisdom and it actually just creates more stress. We learn to live within our means while trusting God for more. Faith isn’t the absence of wisdom. God is wisdom, so that wouldn’t even make sense. Here’s another one that’s similar.
- I’m believing that God wants to prosper me, so I spend like that…
Spending money lavishly when you haven’t saved and considered your future doesn’t make you prosperous. It just makes you a bad steward, and we have already learned that bad stewards don’t get ahead.
Pro 21:5 The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. NASB
Look, this stuff takes time, but your freedom is worth it! You may have to sacrifice for an extended period of time until you are finally in a position to advance, but that’s what you have to be willing to do if you are to advance. I don’t know anyone who wants to stay in a cycle of poverty, but I do know a lot of people who are unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to get out. Which one are you?