Under the cover of night, runaway slaves moved quickly and quietly from one stranger’s house to the next, slowly making their way on the journey to freedom via the Underground Railroad. The darkness, the unfamiliar places and the relentless slave hunters made the trip terrifying. The only thing worse than escaping, in fact, would be remaining in bondage.
We’re blessed to live in an era in which human slavery is no longer legal in the United States. But just because you’re not shackled by physical chains doesn’t mean that you’re not a slave. The Bible tells us that apart from the grace of God, we are all slaves to sin (Romans 6:17). And Jesus also warned us that, if we’re not careful, we can become slaves to money.
But slavery doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Jesus died to set us free from bondage to sin. And if we allow His redeeming work to take place in deep areas of our lives, His power sets us free from financial slavery, too.
Money makes slaves of us in subtle ways. We can fall in to debt, become greedy, develop stingy hearts, or live our lives in a psychological state of poverty. Sometimes, that slavery creeps in via false ideas and wrong attitudes: We compare ourselves to others; we become discontent; we let money tell us who we are; we trust in our finances more than we trust in God. You think you’re doing fine, until one day, you wake up and realize that money has staked a claim on a part of your heart that should belong to the Lord.
If you recognize yourself in some of those scenarios, it’s time to ask God to set you free from the false power of money in your life. He wants you to be free, and He has the power to help you succeed. But He also wants to see you make some changes to get there. There’s always a process of breaking free from any kind of slavery, sin or addiction. As you begin down your own road toward financial freedom, here are three crucial first steps.
1. Submit your heart.
Many of our problems with money stem not from a lack of understanding, but from imperfections in our hearts. Issues such as greed, selfishness, false identity and discontentment are symptoms of a heart “disease.” God wants to own our whole hearts, but so often we reserve parts of our hearts for ourselves. The irony, though, is that we don’t really get to control what we hold back — instead, those are the areas where sin comes creeping in and enslaves us.
The solution is to surrender our whole hearts to God. Job 11:13-16 explains that surrendering your whole heart to God will set you free from trouble:
“Yet if you devote your heart to him
and stretch out your hands to him,
if you put away the sin that is in your hand
and allow no evil to dwell in your tent,
then, free of fault, you will lift up your face;
you will stand firm and without fear.
You will surely forget your trouble,
recalling it only as waters gone by.
When we surrender our hearts to God, He begins to adjust our attitudes and bring them in line with the truth of His word. That’s the first step to freedom.
2. Renew your mind.
Though many of our financial woes come from heart problems, sometimes we get ourselves into trouble out of sheer ignorance. The fact is that our society teaches us a lot of crummy things about money — you may even have learned bad habits about money from your family, teachers, or other people who had the best of intentions.
Once we get our hearts in line with God and what He says about money, it’s also important to fix our minds. We’ve got to shake off the faulty teachings of our culture, and embrace the wisdom that comes from scripture. It may feel like you’re flying in the face of everything normal, but that’s a good thing. After all, Romans 12:2 tells us that breaking free from the pattern of the world gives us access to understanding the will of God:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
3. Discipline your actions.
How often do we know exactly what we should do, and yet fail to do it? Laziness strikes all too often, and can derail even the best of financial plans. If we’re going to succeed in using our money the way that God wants us to, we’re going to have to whip ourselves into shape and apply some discipline and diligence to our lives.
Proverbs tells us over and over again how important diligence is in our financial lives. There are many verses we could highlight, but Proverbs 13:4 will do for now:
A sluggard’s appetite is never filled,
but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.
Running on the Underground Railroad wasn’t a one-night ordeal. Rather, escaping slaves would plod on night after night, week after week, until they finally made their way to freedom. If you’re trying to escape financial slavery, you’ve got to apply the same discipline, diligence and tenacity.
Reaching freedom may not be easy. But it sure beats going back to bondage.
Photo via Flickr, by user Nishanth Jois. Used under Creative Commons License.