A Fact: We’re living in hard times.
No matter what political pundits and talking heads may be saying, we are in a recession. I don’t have to read the latest figures from the Wall Street Journal to figure that out, either. You see, hard times has a face. I see hard times in the tears of those who stop by my home or office asking for help because their power is going to be cut off. I see the face of hard times when praying with a man who’d love to have a job and provide for his home but none are available. I see it in the relationships strained due to the ramifications of not being able to make ends meet and in the heads that are hung in shame because they have reached the point where stopping by the church for groceries, though it was a last resort, has become the only option.
Soap Box For A Moment – I CRINGE when I hear Christians speak of those who are walking through “hard times” as though they are simply to lazy to work, to sorry to take personal responsibility for their situations and happily content sitting back and living off of someone elses dime. I literally cringe. In my personal ministry experience, that is VERY seldom the case. People who’ve come to me for assistance, counseling, etc swallow a lot of pride first. Almost without exception, they don’t want to be in the circumstance they are in. They hate it and would love to be able to have a steady paycheck that provided for their own. There are exceptions to that of course. But they are just that…exceptions, NOT the rule. To make blanket statements concerning the less fortunate or re-post silly FaceBook statuses that are gross generalizations stains the testimony of those posting and even worse, tarnishes the image of Christ and His Church…ok, off soapbox now.
At the end of the day, hard times are here and it looks as though they are going to be hanging around for a long while.
The question is, “How do we respond to hard economic times in a Biblical manner?”. How can we guard against How can we guard our hearts from disobedience concerning our stewardship when things are tight?
The good news – Hard times CAN continue to be good times! It all comes back to how we react to them, specifically concerning our money.
Week 1: Don’t be a financial fool. In Jesus’ parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21, warned listeners not to make the acquisition of money and things their ultimate priority. In these hard times we’re experiencing, the danger we face is to make an idol out of our money. When this practice is adopted we begin to live by the philosophy of “getting all we can, canning all we get then sitting on the can”. This is the philosophy of a fool. In Matthew 6:33 Jesus exhorts us to instead seek first His Kingdom (not ours) and “all these things will be added unto you”. Hard times cab be good times if we don’t become financial fools.
Week 2: Follow God’s financial plan. The Bible is not silent about how to handle money and the instruction we have concerning this isn’t only applicable when the economy is good…they are to be obeyed during hard times as well. Throughout His ministry, Jesus Himself talked continuously about stewardship because He understood the danger we face of treasuring our stuff rather than treasuring our Savior. The principles of Biblical stewardship we find throughout Gods Word are concrete and if followed in obedience, they lead to blessing.
Earn Ethically (Hab. 2:6-9; Prov. 11:1).
Should this go without saying? Probably, but to be on the safe side…hard times often lead to foolish actions. Be honest in your dealings. God is under no obligation to bless a dollar that’s been dishonestly gained.
Resist Greed (Eccl. 5:10; 1 Tim. 6:9-10).
Fight it like the devil…because, well, it’s part of his DNA.
Spend Modestly (1 Tim. 6:6-8; Heb. 13:5).
Ask yourself hard question before spending. “Do I need this or want this?”, “Is this purchase necessary?” or “Would having this reflect good stewardship?”
Avoid Debt (Prov. 22:7; Rom. 13:8).
Lots of people strive to “keep up with the Jones’s”. Problem is, we won’t give an account of the Jones life. We’ll one day give an account of our own. If you have debt, work hard to get out from under it. If you don’t, work hard to never acquire it. Live within your means. U-hauls don’t follow the Hearse. In Hard Times, continue to follow Gods financial plan.
Save Diligently (Prov. 21:20; Gen. 41:35-36).
An often overlooked aspect of Biblical stewardship is being wise enough to save. You may say that “I barely have enough to live on now! How can I save?”. Examine your spending and you’ll most likely find that you COULD save if you really wanted to. For example… Those trips out to eat are super convenient but that money spent will add up! Cook your own meals and save that money that is otherwise wasted. Let me add – NEVER feel ashamed to save money. It’s wise and biblical.
Give Generously (Prov. 3:9; 1 Tim. 6:18).
“WHAT?!” – Yes, in hard times, the best possible reaction is to give generously. As a matter of fact, I’ve found that giving generously is the most beneficial, fruitful, wonderful thing that I can do when things get tight. God blesses the generous. He really does. The richest man in the world is the man who gives the most away.
Week 3: Cultivate a life of contentment. What brings true contentment? In Philippians 4:10-13, Paul says, “I have learned to be content with whatever I have”. I recently read that after years of extensive research, social scientists have discovered that once a person’s basic needs have been met, additional money and possessions have virtually no impact on their contentment levels. Duh…Silly scientist! I could saved them a lot of time by pointing them to the Scriptures! So if money and things don’t lead to contentment, what does? Although numerous factors contribute to our overall happiness, none is more important than gratitude. In Hard times, cultivate a life of contentment.
Can Hard Times Be Good Times? YES! But That Depends On How You React To Them.
Soli Deo Gloria!