The more self-aware we become, the more healing will have jurisdiction over our lives. As I’ve shown throughout this series, healing is not an event, but as Paul says, it’s awakening away from conformity to the common group-think and transforming our life’s circumstances through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). Before we can be healed, we must first wake up to the realization that we have “bought in” to a world view which has made us sick, poor, and isolated. Money reveals to us that healing really is a matter of how we think.
The bible calls the default mode of thinking around us, the World. As such, the World, obscures ultimate reality in such a way that if we are not given tools and instruction on how to overcome the predominant world-views, we will, in true herd-like fashion, follow all the other “sheople” into our own ruin. Healing our finances is the gradual adoption of principles and mindsets that over time create opportunity, liberate us from debt, and allow us to accumulate wealth. This does not require us to be big earners. In fact, most millionaires today, according to Chris Hogan, earn average incomes.
Healing is not about how much we make, its about the choices we make with our money. Choices are an inside (emotional) job. I’ve already introduced to you my friend who is one of the few financial therapists in the country.
You know the statistics, 71% of Americans say they are financially insecure. 40% are struggling to pay for basic necessities and could not come up with $400 without borrowing it or selling something. 80% of Americans are strapped with debt with the average family carrying just more than $137,000 (including mortgage), with $16,000 of that in credit cards. Furthermore, 21% believe it is impossible to live debt free. Suffice it to say, the richest country in the world is struggling and it’s ethos needs healing.
The question that opens this up is why? Housing and healthcare are certainly contributing problems on the surface, but if we are to heal our finances, we have to look deeper. Healing is to rise above the consciousness of the world and gain self-awareness. The test for healing is our ability to take responsibility for our situation. This doesn’t negate contributing factors, but it forces us to own our decisions. Healing requires us to examine our thinking about money. Am I in debt because I’ve bought things I can’t afford? Did I pick the wrong industry? Am I unwilling to move or change jobs? Was I really in a place to start a family? Am I unwilling to work two or three jobs? Are my friends and family hurting me or helping me?
People get into financial trouble based on emotional decisions. When I was at my poorest, I bought myself a giant 4×4 truck because I thought I’d never get one. I then used a credit card to put huge wheels and tires on it. It was the one thing that made me feel ok about the poverty my life was in. I was off track.
Reality was obscured because the ethos of the world is to look outward for a systemic cause of suffering and satisfaction, rather than to have people look inward and take responsibility for themselves. I saw myself as a victim of the economy. I thought as a pastoral ministries major, God was going to take care of me. He didn’t meet my expectations, until I finally took responsibility for my choices. Poverty was my choice but I wouldn’t own it.
By the time I was 26 years old, I had accumulated nearly $50,000 ($98,000 adjusted for inflation) in debt (student loans, car, credit cards). It was the 90’s and the beginning of the tech boom but I was a liberal arts major who was going to save the world as a youth pastor. People my age were making $60,000/ year ($118,000 adj) and I was making $12,000 ($23,000 adj). Each month I could only afford to pay the minimum balance on my cards while I deferred my student loans. I thought it was because I didn’t earn enough, but it was because I wasn’t taking responsibility for myself. I wasn’t about to sell my truck or admit God wasn’t in my ministry. I was following my dream, not opportunity. My debt moved into conformity to my pride and blindness. I thought ministry and the marketplace were two separate things.
One day my wife cut up my credit cards. Without knowing Dave Ramsey, she essentially put us on the Dave Ramsey program. It was really hard. The quality of our life took a hit, we both worked seven days a week, but we made incremental progress. By the time I was 30, I realized my dream of ministry was not separated from my production in the marketplace, but directly connected. I then began to pursue opportunity and landed a very modest job that doubled my very low salary. It took six more years of sacrifice but after 10 years, we were finally debt free with the exception of our mortgage.
Getting into a house was nearly impossible, but we found the smallest house in the entire city and started there. We had a horrible loan. In two years the house value went up and we moved to a new build way outside of town (drive till you qualify). Now that I was conscious of opportunity and taking responsibility for myself, I now could see opportunities in the marketplace. I took a chance on myself with a job where 50% of earnings was a commission. I could either do really well or take a huge step back. With my wife staying home with the two kids, it was do or die but this time it was different than in the past.
My thinking was different. I wasn’t a victim this time. My mind was being healed and my financial well-being followed suit. It always does. Poverty is a first a truth problem.
We stayed on track. We stayed generous in our giving. We kept our budget and we lived below our means and within a few years we had paid off our house. To this day we live debt free, pay cash for everything, and are saving for retirement. This is not me bragging. This is me reminding you of the redemptive process of healing within my consciousness which was given to me by my wife. This opportunity is available for everyone. While housing is expensive, its affordable if you have no debt and you are willing to make concessions. Most people prefer debt to concessions. Maybe you need to move to another city. Maybe you need to change careers. Maybe you need to get an education or skills training. Maybe you need to sell all your stuff.
Scripture offers all comers Divine guidance to steward what we have. I followed these truths into a liberated life and so have many other people. Healing our finances starts with what we believe to be true about the world.
For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. (Matt 25:29)
One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. (Luke 16:10)
The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender. (Proverbs 22:7)
A rich man’s wealth is his strong city; the poverty of the poor is their ruin. (Proverbs 10:15)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 10:12)
If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother. (Deuteronomy 15:7)
I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlargemy heart! (Psalm 119:32)
But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45)
If you are in debt or financial trouble, please know that you can begin the change today. You didn’t get in debt overnight and you won’t get out overnight. Each of our circumstances are different so our path out will be too. It’s ok. The love of God works in such a way that he loves us enough to let us suffer until we begin to trust the paradox of his word. Once we do, even though our circumstances have yet to conform to our new mindset, the love of God immediately enters our life’s equation and he sustains us, blesses us, and empowers us to work our way out of our prisons and into liberation.
Here’s my best advice. Take responsibility. Trust God. Diligently do with excellence and faith everything that is before you to do today. “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matt 6:34) Make a plan, pursue opportunity along with your dream (which comes later when you wake up), take responsibility, take action, make a budget and stick to it. Get out of debt, create a savings account, grow your income.
All this not only helps you, it helps God’s entire world. You do your part, trust God in the lot that has been given to you, as you manage your life, God expands its capacities. Help as many people as you can along the way. Be generous now with the little you have and later you’ll have more. Enjoy the ride. The transformation is long and arduous, but so worth it. When God satisfies the heart, we can own anything without it owning us. Until then we are slaves to everything we own. Live with an open hand, not a clinched fist. Remain a student and seek the help of those who have been there. Surround yourself with people who strive not those who coast.
If you need a action plan, get Dave Ramsey’s book. If you receive these words and let them become your operating ethos, your life will move into conformity to liberation and opportunity. It’s the design of the world and God’s kingdom and we are all invited to step into it today.