Day 3: Obstacles to Financial Simplicity
For many of us our financial situation is less than ideal. OK, for some of us it stinks. The bills have begun to stack up. The income we were expecting at this stage of life has not materialized. Some are trying to fund a lifestyle that doesn’t lit with our paycheck.
Many of those in the survey were perplexed about how they got in this financial mess. That lack of awareness is the first barrier that prevents movement toward fiscal simplicity. Past decisions litter the pathway. They block us from moving forward, from making our mission statement become more than just goals. The removal of these barriers will get us back to being wise caretakers.
50% say they have more bills than money each month.
46% agree their credit-card debt is too high.
72% don’t have the equivalent of six months’ living expenses saved in case of an emergency.
The obstacles need to be removed. Let’s take the next step to achieving our financial goals.
Understanding Your Barriers
In Acts there is a pretty intense story about a husband, his wife, and their offering. Acts 2:44 says, “All the believers were together and had everything in common.” The body of Christ, the church, was beginning to take shape, and it was becoming something beautiful.
Read Acts 5:1-11
1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
Why do you think Ananias and Sapphira lied about their gift?
Why do you think Gods Judgment was so severe?
The couple’s gift itself was good, but the deception ruined it in the eyes of God. In a similar but not nearly as dramatic way, many of our financial struggles are the result of some outside factor, something more personal than many of us would like to admit. It would be easy to say our credit-card balance is the barrier that needs to be eliminated to achieve a simple financial structure, but rarely is that the cause. The debt is the outcome of a barrier, not the barrier itself.
Let’s hear from Erin to illustrate: “Look, I know my budget is strained. Trust me, I realize this every time I open the mailbox and see a bill. I get a little nervous, hoping I will have enough to pay for it.”
It doesn’t take a financial expert to realize that Erin is in a very serious situation. One misstep, and she’s in trouble: “I guess I could try to trade in my car for one with a lower monthly payment, but once you have a car like mine, it’s hard to take a step down. Everyone loves it, I get so many compliments. I don’t know, I guess it just makes me
feel good. l feel like l’m somebody when l drive around in it. I don’t know if l want to let that go.”
Identify Erin’s barrier.
Desire to be admired
Did you catch Erin’s barrier that has caused her financial strain? It’s not the bills. It’s not the car. It’s deeper than that. Her problem isn’t her financial state, that’s only where it has manifested itself Her struggle is with her identity.
We want to point the finger at someone or something else, such as the credit-card companies, but they didn’t put the original balance on that card or purchase more than we could afford to pay off many times our financial situations arise from our self-identity. This type of barrier causes us to make decisions that are fiscally irresponsible.
We must also be careful when we use our lack of financial resources also known as our paycheck, as an excuse for our burdens. A lack of money may limit us, but acquiring additional funds does not necessarily mean our financial burdens will be resolved. Often, our monetary problems have nothing to do with money. And even if we got a raise or inherited a bundle, the issues still exist inside us that would give us the
same problems on a much grander scale.
Have you ever bought anything to boost your image?
Was this a one-time thing or part of your lifestyle?
No matter how much money we make, we must first uncover our motivations for our financial decisions before we can become responsible stewards of our resources.
Moving Your Motivation
What motivates your financial decisions? One reason the Bible discusses money is that it is such a telling indicator of what’s going on inside us. Our monetary decisions flow from our hearts. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).
A cliche says if you want to look at someone’s priorities, just take a look at their checkbook and calendar. And there is truth behind this. Recorded in the register are the places or persons we deem important enough to rate a portion of our financial resources.
Examine your checkbook or credit~card statement. Estimate the percentage of money you are spending on the following in an average month.
Food and clothing_____%
When we truthfully answer the question of why we are spending, we come face-to-face with our heart. We see our motivations for what they really are, not as we pretend them to be.
Is debt a problem? Absolutely. Is debt the cause of our financial problems? No.
When we dig deep to the root cause of debt, we often find a common obstacle. Debt is primarily caused by overconsumption. Over-consumption is caused by a desire to have something that is beyond our financial reach. We want something beyond our financial means because we think somehow it will make us more complete.
We are immersed in a culture that teaches consumption as a way of life. We think our purchasing habits, our ways of entangling ourselves with debt, are normal. Satan is great at molding our minds to lit his purposes. If he can get us to justify the one purchase we can’t afford he knows the next will come much more easily. And the results are often frustration and stress, which complicate our lives and ultimately our relationship with God.
We know it isn’t just debt that hinders financial simplicity. There is typically much more. If our answer to the final “Why?” falls short of being acceptable to God, then we must fervently seek to remove that obstacle.
But don’t leave it up to your own wisdom. Seek help from the maker of all things. The “why?” is not hidden from Him. He already knows your struggle, he has seen your heart’s true motivation And most importantly, he understands (see Heb. 4:15-16).
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Dig deep for answers. And then present them to the God who came to this tiny rock of a planet to better understand what you are experiencing. With him, move your motivation.
The Far Future, the Future, and the Now
As we discussed yesterday, each one of these eras in your life is separate but highly dependent on the others. Each category holds its own obstacles that, unless removed, limit your movement toward your desired destination.
Movement: The Far Future. Proverbs 13:22 says,
A good man leaves an inheritance to his grandchildren, but the sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.
We should make financial decisions not because they will improve our situation but because they will benefit someone else. This idea swims completely upstream against the suggestion that because we worked hard for it all, we deserve to enjoy it all.
ls there anything wrong with enjoying the fruit of our labor? Absolutely not. But the Bible indicates that there is something wrong when we hoard the fruit of our labor. Why? Because it isn’t ours to hoard. There is more beyond our earthly lives, and our death provides one final opportunity to show our love for others.
It is not just our grandchildren for whom we need to be concerned We also need to be concerned about the future financial security of those we live with now. Too many people don’t carry enough insurance to care for their loved ones.
Review your mission statement for the Far Future from yesterday.
What barriers are keeping you from caring for those who will outlive you?
Preoccupation with yourself
Assuming a tragedy will never occur
Thinking you have plenty of time
Lack of resources
Sadly, many are left without provision because we didn’t place enough importance on those we will leave behind. We need to remove the barriers that hinder our movement to a lasting financial legacy.
41% of males don’t have enough insurance.
51% of females don’t have enough insurance.
73% have concerns about whether they will retire comfortably.
Movement: The Future. God watches over each of us and cares for us more deeply than any of us will ever understand while on this earth. Nevertheless, He allows his followers to make mistakes and to suffer the consequences of those mistakes. For those who do not plan properly for retirement, the results will probably align with the lack of preparation. Most people in our surveys doubt they can retire comfortably, so we heard cries of distress, fear, and discomfort about what the future will bring.
We are a culture that spends first and saves if we have anything left. We splurge in the present at the risk of the future. Without sufficient income we are no longer able to support the lifestyle we once had. We rely on Social Security to get us from one month to the next.
The future is not always about retirement. It’s about saving for your child’s education. It can be about preparing for the house you’ve wanted. It’s about whatever may come into your financial path beyond the next 10 years.
When we don’t prepare and the future becomes the Now, we are left in despair, wondering where the time went and what we could have done differently.
Movement: The NOW. Many of us want to set aside something for retirement and the next generation, but we can’t see beyond our present financial needs. It’s time to figure out what’s important and what’s not in our financial world. What we do here will either hinder or help this part of our life’s journey.
Wherever you find yourself good things can come from your finances when you dedicate them to God and commit to be a steward of his resources.
Barriers to simplicity in the Now may mean a radical change of lifestyle. But if we are honest, our concern with image and fashion is probably not only causing financial disruption but also interfering with our relationship with God And no designer product is worth that cost.
Making the Move
Josh looked back at his list of priorities in each of the three categories–the Now, the Future, and the Far Future-and identified several barriers that were preventing him from moving toward his goals. He decided to select one barrier from each category that he would prayerfully submit to God for help. They were;
° The Now: materialism
° The Future: complacency
° The Far Future: an overt focus on self
Josh looked at what he had written and shook his head. He realized money was not the issue. He was the issue.
As we follow Josh’s lead to identify our barriers to movement many of us will find ourselves facing some difficult realities about the state of our hearts. Remember, these obstacles not only hinder our financial simplicity but also hurt our development as Christians. Removing these obstructions will help us reach our financial goals and
allow us to take another step closer to becoming more like Jesus.