If you’ve become a slave to money, it’s not because someone has slipped iron chains around your ankles. It’s because wrong attitudes have infiltrated your heart.
Every great failure of the human race can be traced back to the deceitfulness of men’s hearts. The Bible tells us, after all, that “the heart is deceitful, above all things” (Jer. 17:9). When we meet God and surrender our lives to His will, we invite Him into our hearts. But sometimes the old, deceitful attitudes of our hearts remain in place. It’s those attitudes that cause us to continue to struggle with sin. And it’s those attitudes that we must fix in order to break free from slavery.
So it goes with financial slavery: The first step in breaking free from the tyranny of money is submitting our hearts to God, and learning to replace our faulty attitudes with the truth of His word. When we look at the finance struggles in our hearts, we see four key areas of attitude failure (although you may find others when you look into your own life).
We’ll dig deeper into each of these areas in upcoming articles. To lay the groundwork, though, let’s look at four false financial attitudes, and compare them with the truth of God’s word.
False Attitude #1: My money, stuff and possessions belong to me, and me alone.
In our society that has such precise and explicit rules about possession and ownership, it stands to reason that we would stake an exclusive claim to all of our money, treasure and other possessions. And from a strictly human point of view, this attitude is right: When you earn or acquire something, your friends and neighbors don’t have the right to come and take it from you.
But this attitude can become dangerous very quickly. We may be in charge of the possessions entrusted to us, but if we become too attached to them, we can become greedy or stingy. And things just get uglier from there.
The truth: God owns it all. In human terms, we control our possessions. But truth is much bigger than human existence. The truth is that God owns everything (Ps. 24:1). Even the things that we think we own really belong to Him, and He has a sovereign right to lay claim to our money and resources. This also means that He has the ability to meet all of our financial needs.
False Attitude #2: I work hard to earn my money, and I am responsible for my own financial success.
We all work hard to earn our money — if it wasn’t hard, they wouldn’t call it work, and nobody would pay you for it. And if we apply some ingenuity, creativity and tenacity to the work we do, we have the potential to become very financially successful. It’s easy to take credit for this success — after all, we worked so hard to attain it. But this road leads to pride, false identity and false motivations — attitudes that turn our hearts away from God.
The truth: God gives it all. You may think that your own cleverness and hard work created the wealth that you now possess. But check out Deut. 8:10-18: God makes it clear that although we may succeed, our very ability to work hard and create wealth comes from Him. If He is the source of our wealth, that changes our propensity to take credit for it… and also changes the way that we take responsibility for handling our money.
False Attitude #3: I’m free to do whatever I want with my money — it’s all up to me.
One characteristic of the human heart is that it tends to have a nasty independent streak. And in the Western world today, we are largely free to spend our money however we want. Some people squander it on cheap, temporary pleasures; others use it to build financial empires, and still others give much of their money away. But this attitude can get us into real financial trouble, especially when we begin spending unwisely simply because we think it’s our prerogative. Debt often follows close behind.
The truth: God expects us to be good and fruitful managers of His wealth. If we realize that God owns everything, and that He has given us certain amounts of His wealth to manage for Him, it changes the way that approach handling this money. The parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30) makes it clear that God expects us to manage His wealth faithfully, and that we should see to it that these financial resources bear fruit in the work of His kingdom.
False Attitude #4: It’s all random — some people strike it rich in life, but most of us will always struggle to scrape by.
Some of the people in the spotlight of our society seem to have simply stumbled into their wealth and prestige. If they’re a star athlete or a Hollywood beauty, they won the DNA lottery. Other people inherit a lot from their families, or were “born wealthy.” But for the rest of us — those who work week in and week out to feed our families — it can seem like we’re slaving away just to get by, without any real chance of getting ahead financially.
The truth: God’s desire is to prosper us. Prosperity is a fruit of righteousness. Though life and money may seem random, God is sovereign, and He promises prosperity to those who follow Hhim and live righteously. Psalm 128 paints a beautiful picture of the blessings that God gives to those who walk faithfully with Him. And though not all of us will be “rich” in the world’s terms, we can trust God that we will be blessed and well provided for.
It took years and years for these bad attitudes to become ingrained in our hearts, so it may take some time for us to really dig them out. But if we keep these truths in front of us, they’ll help us tremendously in aligning our hearts with God’s, and escaping the bondage of financial slavery.
Photo via Flickr, by user Anthony Kelly. Used under Creative Commons License.