Crackerjack Greenback Prudent Advice for a Prosperous Future

March 1, 2009

Guest Post at Free Money Finance about Contentment

Filed under: Contentment — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 8:02 am

       I have a guest post today over at Free Money Finance titled Contentment: Serving God Through Simple Living. Please check it out when you get a chance! Thanks!!!

February 19, 2009

Rethinking Retirement

Filed under: Contentment,Earning,Goals,Retirement Planning,Values — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 11:36 am

       Mike at The Oblivious Investor has a thought-provoking article today titled Don’t Retire., which was inspired by Stephen Pollan and Mark Levine’s book Die Broke: A Radical Four-Part Financial Plan. Mike discusses why retirement as we imagine it today is probably an unreachable goal for most Baby Boomers and subsequent generations. Given the fact that many workers no longer receive pensions and don’t seem to be very good at saving on their own, I’d have to agree.

The History of Retirement

       The idea of retiring when you’re older is relatively new. It only seems to have become popular in the last century. There are several possible explanations for this, but the most likely ones are higher incomes (we enjoy a standard of living about eight times higher than Americans a century ago) and the creation of Social Security and pension programs (though the future of Social Security is unclear, and pensions are largely a thing of the past). If you’d like to read more about the history of retirement, I suggest these articles:

Economic History of Retirement in the United States (a more academic article)
The History of Retirement, From Early Man to A.A.R.P. (not quite as dry as the first)

       The truth is, retirement was never really an option for our earlier ancestors. They didn’t have very long lives or the economic systems we have today. We also find no discussion of retirement in the Bible as we think of it today. There is one reference to the priests (Levites) retiring at age 50 from temple service, but they were to stay on to help the younger men (probably in giving advice and guidance). The only other semblance of retirement we see in the Bible is old men sitting at the city gate. The city gate was a place of honor, and those who sat there offered advice and counsel to those in the city. Again, the older people didn’t really retire but found other ways to serve their communities. Instead of working, they lived with their children and received support from them. But that’s rare today (unless you’re Amish).

How Should Christians View Retirement Today?

       Given the nature of the labor force today and the interaction of families, we do need to be saving for a time when we won’t be able to produce as much income as we can when we’re younger. Children are moving farther away from their parents for jobs or other reasons than they did in the past (or in the Bible). Several generations of a family living in the same house or very close to each other is no longer the norm. And the complication of health problems and other issues when you’re older can definitely impact your ability to earn income.

       However, the American view of retirement is far from God’s ideal for His followers. How does spending every day on the golf course, or sipping sweet tea on the back porch every day, or traveling the world for pleasure glorify God? The work of the kingdom of God is never ending. By focusing our entire lives on a retirement where we sit around, do whatever we want, and relax, we miss the picture of what God could be calling us to do when we no longer have to work as much to earn all of our money. On the other hand, a Christian retirement focused on contentment and serving God can allow for some leisure (just as during your working years) without neglecting the valuable work we can do to further God’s kingdom and show His love to the world.

       22 Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life-whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. 23 For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. 24 Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! 25 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 26 And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

       27 “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 28 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

       29 “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

Luke 12:22-31 (NLT)

       We are not to seek a life that’s merely full of the pleasures of this world. God calls us to seek His kingdom first. When we put our focus on God and trust in Him, we no longer have to worry about our retirement accounts, government policies, economic disasters, or any other worries. When we have the glorious gift of Jesus Christ, we remain wealthy despite what happens to us in this life. We have riches that cannot fail, that cannot disappear, and that will never leave us—even after death.

A Different Retirement

       I’m not saying you should stop saving and investing for the future. There will most likely come a time when you will not be able to earn all the money necessary to cover your needs. It is prudent and wise to save for such a time, and the Bible commends and encourages such wisdom. But you should rethink your hopes of buying that second home, taking luxury cruises three times a year, or endless rounds of golf during retirement.

       A Christian can most definitely follow God’s teaching and will if they save up for retirement and reduce or eliminate their workload. But a Christian retirement should be focused on meeting your needs (not extravagant needs, but your daily bread—just enough) and then using your abundance of time to do God’s work. Minister to the needy, volunteer more, visit the sick and those in prison, comfort those in mourning, reach out to those on the margins of society, pray and study God’s Word—these are all wonderful activities to fill a Christian retirement. But seeking a permanent vacation, a time when you do little that is useful or glorifies God, is only a product of greed, selfishness, and the World—it is a tool used by Satan to distract you from furthering God’s kingdom. Flee from it, and seek God’s counsel for your older years. Ask Him to guide you and show you His ways so that you can continue to glorify Him.

The Results

       This new view of retirement has profound implications for your life—now and when you’re older.

  • You no longer need to be obsessed with saving and investing all of your money. You’re free to be extremely generous—following God’s teaching on giving. You won’t have to save as much, but you should still save prudently.
  • You will avoid the depression that often comes at retirement. Many workers realize they actually enjoyed the interaction with their coworkers or the public and feel lost after they retire.
  • You’re free to do work that you enjoy even though it may not pay well. You don’t have to run after the highest paying job just so you can secure the retirement you’re told to dream about.
  • You don’t need to be a workaholic. You can focus on family and serving God during your working years—glorifying God much more than if you spent 80+ hours a week working. This also leaves you with more time to develop your relationship with God.

       Seeking a retirement where you can glorify God even more than you did while you were working brings you much closer to God than a retirement where you spend every day out on the boat. I challenge you to reconsider your ideas about retirement. Rethink retirement, and pray for God to show you what His will is for the later years of your life. Let God transform and renew your mind—clearing out the messages the World and Satan have planted in there and putting His teaching and will in your heart. Then plan and save for a retirement that glorifies God.

P.S. Yesterday marked Crackerjack Greenback’s 100th post! I’ve had 7,044 visitors and 193 comments since November 2008. Thank you for reading and visiting! If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, please tell your family and friends about Crackerjack Greenback!

February 8, 2009

Personal Finance Bible Study: Contentment (Free Ebook!)

Filed under: Contentment,Personal Finance Bible Study,Personal Finance in the Bible — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       As promised in my post last Sunday summarizing the Contentment Bible study, here is your free Ebook to download and share with anyone you like. In addition, I’ve added all the Bible verses on contentment that I’ve been able to find. It’s 52 pages, including the title page and table of contents. I even added some questions for reflection. You’re definitely getting your money’s worth here, folks! Click the picture of the Ebook to download the PDF file. Let me know what you think in the comments!!!

Contentment Is Wealth

February 1, 2009

Personal Finance Bible Study: Contentment (Summary)

Filed under: Contentment,Personal Finance Bible Study,Personal Finance in the Bible — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       This post is a short summary of the Personal Finance Bible Study on Contentment. It contains links to all the articles in this Bible study. You can also read about Bible verses on Contentment here.

The World’s Message

       The World’s Message
       The Problem with the World’s Message
       The Solution to the Problem

       In the first three parts of this Bible study on Contentment, we looked at the World’s message. “If we get more of the stuff the World has to offer, we’ll be happy and satisfied.” We then looked at the problem with the World’s message—it keeps us from serving God, and it has no eternal reward. Finally, we looked at the solution to this problem—giving God our hearts and allowing Jesus to fully live through us.

Getting God’s View

       Getting God’s View (Part 1)
       Getting God’s View (Part 2)
       Getting God’s View (Part 3)

       In the next three parts, we looked at God’s View of the world, money, and our lives so we can focus on serving Him instead of serving Money. First, our focus on the Things of This World keeps us from seeing the importance of love and relationships. This keeps us from fully serving God. Second, we must focus on storing up treasures in heaven rather than on Earth because that will show whether our hearts belong to God or Money. If we let the concerns of this life take priority over the concerns of eternal life, we will be unfruitful. Finally, we learned that everything belongs to God. And even though these ideas go against our human nature, it’s not worth gaining the whole world (being rich) if we end up losing our souls.

Practical Applications

       Practical Applications (Part 1)
       Practical Applications (Part 2)
       Practical Applications (Part 3)
       Practical Applications (Part 4)

       The next four sections are about the practical applications of God’s View and Contentment in our lives. First, we looked at we should focus on God instead of being worried about our Earthly lives. This means we’re more worried about doing good and showing love than earning money and gaining wealth. We also learned that if we follow Jesus’ teaching we will receive a great reward (though probably not monetary). Second, we learned that we don’t have to be concerned about our needs because God has promised to always be with us. Third, we looked at how we should react in all circumstances and the importance of asking God for our daily bread—just enough. Finally, we learned that we shouldn’t wear ourselves out trying to get rich. And if we are rich, we should be very generous and doing good so that we don’t trust in Money but in God alone.

The Results

       The Results (Part 1)
       The Results (Part 2)

       In the last two sections, we looked at the results of God’s Contentment in our lives. First, we learned that we will delight God, really enjoy life, and always have God as our strong tower—our protector. Then, we learned that God’s Contentment will teach us the secret to happiness in all circumstances and will bring us greater wealth than we can imagine.

Free E-book

       By next Sunday, I hope to compile all of these lessons into a free e-book for anyone to download. I’d like to add some discussion questions, but that may have to wait until I can get some feedback from other people. Nonetheless, I’ll at least have the lessons put together into an Adobe Acrobat PDF file by next Sunday. Come back then to download your free copy! Then feel free to share it with family, friends, church members, and any other fellow Christians.

Update: The Ebook is now available. Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

January 25, 2009

Personal Finance Bible Study: Contentment (Part 12 of 12) – The Results

Filed under: Contentment,Personal Finance Bible Study,Personal Finance in the Bible — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       Last Sunday, we started talking about the results of following God’s teaching on contentment. How will contentment benefit you, and what kind of effects will it have on your life? We’ll finish that discussion today.

       Paul speaks about contentment in two specific ways that clearly show the results of being content. First, he talks of facing every situation with contentment. Second, he discusses how contentment brings great gain and saves us from many sorrows.

The Secret to Happiness

       In Philippians 4:10-14, Paul thanks the church at Philipi for the gifts they gave him. He explains that he’s not trying to get them to give more, since he has never been in need because he’s learned to be content in any situation through God’s strength. But he thanks them just the same.

       10 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 14 Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.

Philippians 4:10-14 (NLT)

       These verses highlight the striking difference between God’s kind of contentment and the world’s kind of contentment. We generally view contentment and happiness as something we get after some certain requirements are met.

When I get that new car, I’ll be happy.

When I get promoted and start making more money, I’ll be set.

When I can move to a nicer neighborhood, then I’ll be content.

When I retire, life will really start to get better.

       From the world’s perspective, contentment is almost always something that comes in the future. But the contentment God wants to give us is for the past, present, and future. It’s not for just the good times but the bad also. God’s contentment brings us happiness and peace in any situation. The world’s contentment only happens when everything’s turning up roses.

       How is it possible that we can learn to be content in any and every situation that comes our way? How can we possibly be content if we have to drive a beat up, old car to a dead-end job just so we can pay the rent on our drafty apartment? And that’s where we make our first mistake. We don’t have to do anything. God has already handled it all for us.

       All we really have to do is realize two simple things. First, there is nothing worthwhile that the world can offer us when compared to the blessings God has already given us. We have eternal life in Christ. What does it matter if we’re not wearing Armani suits and driving BMWs while we’re here on Earth? Second, Christ will give us the strength we need to make it through any situation we encounter—we are not alone in our struggles. We can be happy in every circumstance because God is with us and our standing in this life does not matter in our eternal life.

Contentment Is Wealth

       The next passage I want to look at is 1 Timothy 6:3-16. Paul is speaking to Timothy here, giving him instructions on how to lead a godly life and teach others the way as well.

       3 Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life. 4 Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. 5 These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy.

       6 Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 7 After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. 8 So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

       9 But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

       11 But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses. 13 And I charge you before God, who gives life to all, and before Christ Jesus, who gave a good testimony before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you obey this command without wavering. Then no one can find fault with you from now until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. 15 For at just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. 16 He alone can never die, and he lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach him. No human eye has ever seen him, nor ever will. All honor and power to him forever! Amen.

1 Timothy 6:3-16 (NLT)

       This is a clear message against the “Prosperity Gospel” that’s so prevalent today and was apparently widespread in the time of the early Church as well. So many people see God as a means to get rich in this life by preying on others, and they preach that God will bless us with material wealth if we’ll just call in right now and give them some money for “God’s work”. Others preach that God will bless us abundantly if we give more money to our church, or that we can’t really receive God’s full blessing unless we’re giving a full tithe (ten percent) to our church.

       But you see, God is not so much concerned about whether we’re blessed in our earthly life. He wants to see us blessed in our eternal life. God has already blessed us abundantly by giving us His Son so that we can live with Him in Heaven. How much money we have or how comfortable we are here on Earth matters very little when we bring eternity into the picture.

       And God has abolished these rules of “you do this, and I’ll give you that”. For those who are living in Jesus Christ, there is no law saying we must give 10% of our income to the church. We try to impose rules and laws for God and end up missing the entire point. When Christ came and taught the Jews, he spoke with authority about the laws of Moses. What did He teach? That God doesn’t just want us to meet some minimums and go home from church thinking we’re good to go for the next week. No, when Jesus taught about the laws he told us to do much more than the laws tell us to do. We’re supposed to go above and beyond the expectations we think we’re supposed to meet. So while I’m in no way against giving generously to your church or the needy, I am 100% against teaching Christians that the tithe is a requirement they must all meet. But we’ll look at this more when we discuss giving.

       We also see here the famously misquoted scripture about money being the root of all kinds of evil. People often leave out the “kinds of” part, thus changing the meaning dramatically. Money in and of itself is not evil—it is just a thing, a tool to be used. But the love of money takes our focus off God and leads us into all kinds of evil things. Again, it comes back to whether or not our hearts belong to God. If our hearts belong to God, we will serve and glorify Him in all things. If they belong to money, we will never be able to please God and will always be led astray. Paul tells Timothy, and all Christians, to run from all these evil things and not let the love of money take over our lives.

       I’ve gotten sidetracked a bit, but those were important points. What this passage means for the results of contentment lies in verses six through ten. Godliness is not a means to financial gain, but true godliness with God’s contentment provides us with great wealth. First, we receive spiritual wealth because contentment allows us to remain focused on God and ignore worldly materialism.

       Second, we receive great material wealth through contentment because we’ll “need” less. When we are content and need less “stuff”, we don’t need to be as rich or make as much money to be happy. That is to say, we don’t have to be as focused on making money or building wealth if we can be happy living on $25,000/year versus $50,000 or $75,000/year. Once we learn to be content in any situation through God’s strength, what used to seem like so little becomes great wealth because we just don’t need as much. Despite what numerous websites and scammers may claim, the best way to get rich quick is to be content.

       The point is this: contentment and godliness together give us great gain because we will be blessed spiritually by being more focused on God and materially because we’ll just “need” less of the world’s “stuff”. Though it’s strange to hear and difficult to believe (from a worldly perspective), learning to be content with whatever situation you’re in by relying on God can make you richer than Bill Gates and Warren Buffet combined.

Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

January 18, 2009

Personal Finance Bible Study: Contentment (Part 11 of 12) – The Results

Filed under: Contentment,Personal Finance Bible Study,Personal Finance in the Bible — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       Last Sunday, we finished talking about practical applications when we take on God’s View of the World, Money, and our lives. We looked at how we should act and what we should do when we take on God’s View and live out His will. Today, we’ll start talking about the results of following God’s teaching on contentment. How will contentment benefit you, and what kind of effects will it have on your life?

Delighting God

       When our focus is no longer on wealth and material things but fully centered on God, we can begin to please Him. It’s amazing to think that despite our weaknesses and shortcomings we can still manage to please the Creator of the entire universe by simply learning to be content and center our lives around Him.

   23 This is what the LORD says:
       “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
       or the strong man boast of his strength
       or the rich man boast of his riches,

       24 but let him who boasts boast about this:
       that he understands and knows me,
       that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
       justice and righteousness on earth,
       for in these I delight,”
       declares the LORD.


Jeremiah 9:23-24
(NIV)

       It’s nearly unthinkable that we can delight God, but we really can delight Him when we talk more about His goodness and our relationship with Him than our wealth or accomplishments.

Enjoying Life

       In Ecclesiastes, Solomon experiences all the things the world tells us will make us happy—power, wealth, and pleasure. He reflects on his experience and realizes all the things the world recommends are quite meaningless. He also reflects on what he sees in the world, and most of his learning about the best things in life is summed up by Ecclesiastes 8:15.

       15 So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 8:15 (NIV)

       Now, Solomon is not recommending that we all “eat, drink, and be merry” as the world understands it. He’s commending the enjoyment of life, which is really what contentment boils down to. When we’re content in any situation and learn to value God and His ways above all else, we can find true joy in life that will stay with us always.

       The joy of contentment in God can keep us happy and optimistic no matter what happens to us because it’s founded on Him. The eternal power and truth of God can overcome any situation, allowing us to fully enjoy life and realize our blessings even in the worst circumstances. And learning to be content in every situation can give us joy that lasts throughout our entire lives—unlike wealth, which is so uncertain and may not last through tomorrow.

A Strong Tower

       Throughout the Bible, we see a continual reference to God as a strong tower and mighty fortress. He protects those who trust in Him, and His strength overcomes all obstacles. When we are content with God’s provision, blessing, and His gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, we have the ultimate protection from any worldly disaster. Poverty, sickness, economic depressions, death, stock market crashes, natural disasters, job loss—none of them can hurt us because we will always have eternal life in Jesus. Despite what the world says, it just doesn’t matter what happens to us in this life. Nothing can ever separate us from the love of Jesus.

       Do I mean that God will protect us from all these things? Not at all. Terrible things happen to Christians all the time and they really test our faith. But if we weigh the worst tragedy against the fact that we have been saved by Christ, we’ll always see that we are truly blessed. God keeps us safe through all things because He has given us eternal security through Jesus. Wealth can never do that.

   10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
   the righteous run to it and are safe.

   11 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city;
   they imagine it an unscalable wall.

Proverbs 18:10-11 (NIV)

       We like to imagine wealth will protect us from all the bad things in life and give us access to all the good things in life. What we don’t realize is that we are just imagining that it can do all those things. Wealth can only protect you so much, and it can only give you the things that the world says are good. But there’s no guarantee that your wealth will be there when you really need it.

       There is only one guarantee, and there’s only one way we can find true safety in life. Trusting in God and finding contentment in what He’s blessed us with—whether little or much—will provide us with a strong tower capable of withstanding anything that might come our way. Contentment in God gives us joy that lasts as long as we live rather than a little pleasure for a fleeting moment.

       The truth is that money and things can never give us the happiness and security we’re seeking. God has already given us all the happiness and joy we could ever need—we just need to look at our lives through His eyes. Once we start doing that, we’ll see how truly rich we already are.

Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

January 11, 2009

Personal Finance Bible Study: Contentment (Part 10 of 12) – Practical Applications

Filed under: Contentment,Personal Finance Bible Study,Personal Finance in the Bible — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       Last Sunday, we continued talking about practical applications when we take on God’s View of the World, Money, and our lives. How should we act and what should we do when we take on God’s View and live out His will? We’ll finish that discussion today, and next Sunday we’ll start talking about the results of following God’s teaching on contentment.

       Proverbs has tons of great personal finance advice, but Proverbs 23:4-5 has a very practical application for our lives—especially today.

   4 Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich.
   Be wise enough to know when to quit.

   5 In the blink of an eye wealth disappears,
   for it will sprout wings
   and fly away like an eagle.

Proverbs 23:4-5 (NLT)

       When we look at the world around us, we can see people everywhere wearing themselves out trying to get rich. And how many families have been torn apart because of an obsession with work? How many people have committed suicide because they lost their wealth? We have to be wise enough to know when to quit—when enough is enough.

Bald Eagle by Velo Steve on Flickr       Worldly wealth can be quite fickle. It’s temporary (even if it lasts your entire life), faulty, and can disappear very quickly. I’m sure we all know of cases where money has come and gone quite easily. That’s the problem with worldly wealth. While we think we’ll get security if we have enough of it, the truth is that it’s built on a weak foundation and can’t provide the things we really need. Even if it gets us through our old age, we can’t do much with it once we’re dead.

       This is why Jesus tells us to focus on heavenly treasure and God’s kingdom. Unlike worldly wealth, these things are permanent. They’re built on a foundation stronger than any we’ve ever known. The lasting treasure we pile up in heaven will always provide for us during this life. And when we’ve passed on, we’ll still have all of it. No matter what happens to us, we can never lose the treasure of God’s love living in us. We might not be rich and famous, but will always have the invaluable gift of eternal life.

       Paul mirrors the wisdom of this proverb in his instructions to Timothy for the rich:

       17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NLT)

       Wealth makes it easy for us to become arrogant and stop trusting in God. We gain a false sense of security, because the truth is that worldly wealth is very uncertain. But when we place our trust wholly in God, He provides everything we need. God can give us joy that we can’t get from anything else on Earth. His joy lets us see the true value of things in our life, and His love working through us makes our lives much more valuable than any amount of money ever will.

       Paul’s very practical advice is that we should use money to do good—not to store it up and trust in it. We should focus on doing good things for other people in the service of God. We should be generous and always ready to share. This is the essence of God’s view on contentment—that we should not be obsessed with things or wealth or status, but that we should always be ready to do good, to love others, to share what we have, and to always trust that He will provide everything we need.

       Contentment means that we stop being obsessed with buying that new iPod, but instead we give that money to the hungry.

Give us this day... by Mr. Kris on Flickr

(Click the picture to read about the tragedy of hunger in our world.)

       It means that we drive our old car a little longer, so that we may be able to give clean water to the thirsty.

Woman with child collecting water by hdptcar on Flickr

       It means we live in a smaller home, so that we can provide shelter for those that have no place to stay warm or out of the rain.

Homeless by Henrique Vicente on Flickr

       It means that we stop spending so much time working and pursuing wealth, so that we can spend time building relationships with our family, our friends, our neighbors, complete strangers, and even our enemies.

Relationship by Smile My Day on Flickr

       Fully pursuing contentment means that we totally trust in God for His providence, and we stop worrying about what’s going to happen in the economy.

       And what do we get for all of this? A good foundation of heavenly treasure that lasts for eternity, and the ability to experience true life rather than that illusion of the “good life” that’s fed to us every day. Contentment allows us to live out a true life in Jesus and to fully experience His love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness.

Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

January 4, 2009

Personal Finance Bible Study: Contentment (Part 9 of 12) – Practical Applications

Filed under: Contentment,Personal Finance Bible Study,Personal Finance in the Bible — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       Last Sunday, we continued talking about practical applications when we take on God’s View of the World, Money, and our lives. How should we act and what should we do when we take on God’s View and live out His will? We’re still continuing that discussion today.

       How does God want us to deal with our circumstances? Paul provides us with some insight in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:

       16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

       I’ve talked about 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 before, so I won’t go into as much depth here. This passage clearly sets out God’s expectations for how we should live, regardless of our circumstances. We are to always be joyful, pray continually, and give thanks no matter what. God wants our lives focused on the Gift He has given us, becoming closer to Him, and enjoying the good things He has blessed us with. There’s no room for greed or materialism when our hearts are focused on those things. That’s God’s will for us—that we’re focused on Him instead of this world.

       So we know by now we shouldn’t be focused on material things or amassing great wealth, but we still have needs while we’re living on Earth. What should we ask God for, and how much of it should we request? Agur gives us some good guidelines in Proverbs 30:8-9.

     8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
     give me neither poverty nor riches,
     but give me only my daily bread.

     9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
     and say, ‘Who is the LORD ‘
     Or I may become poor and steal,
     and so dishonor the name of my God.

Proverbs 30:8-9 (NIV)

Our Daily Bread by ms. Tea on Flickr       Agur asks God for his daily bread—just enough. If we have too much, we become inclined to believe we did it all ourselves and begin to deny even the existence of God. It is very easy to start relying on our wealth more than we rely on God. We get too focused on our material well-being and no longer see the need for God in our lives, so we disown Him and pretend He doesn’t exist. On the other hand, if we have too little we may become inclined to steal. This would dishonor God because it is sin—against God for not trusting in Him and against our neighbors for not loving them.

       This idea of our daily bread should be quite familiar to most Christians. It’s part of the Lord’s Prayer—Jesus’ example of how we ought to pray and where our hearts should be focused when we pray. Jesus wanted us to realize that this request for our daily bread is important. Asking God for just enough, being modest and content, and not letting materialism rule our lives—these are the things that allow us to honor God sincerely in our lives. It is such an important concept that Jesus included it in His example for prayer (not to mention all the time He spent telling parables and teaching about contentment and a focus on heavenly treasures).

       We see two main practical applications here. First, we should be content with our circumstances because it is God’s will for our lives. If we’re focused on the gift of eternal salvation, we don’t have to be as worried about the things of this world. We’re free to be joyful always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances. Second, we should be asking God for just enough to get by each day—not for millions of dollars, or a huge house, or a BMW—just our daily bread. We bring nothing into this world, and we won’t take anything out when we leave it. This is why Paul says we should be content if we have food and clothing (1 Timothy 6:8). That’s all we really need to get by (though a warm shelter is nice as well, it’s not completely necessary). When we start worrying about getting more than that, we take our focus off of God and put it back onto the World. And that’s a sure way to keep ourselves from fully serving God.

Note: I do not mean that we should completely neglect our material needs, but it’s all about where our hearts are focused. Wherever your treasure is, that’s where your heart will be also. So if you’re consumed with thinking about material things and wealth, your heart can’t really belong to God. That’s the only true sin, because once God gets your heart He’ll get everything else with it. It’s all He really needs from us—and that’s why it’s so vitally important that we don’t give our hearts to materialism.

Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

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