We usually think of financial independence as being a desirable state of financial affairs, but for a Christian it may be even more important than that. The Christian walk is often a tug-of-war with the world, but few areas of life have the potential to steal away our time, efforts, attention and resources the way financial struggle can.
It’s not that we can’t serve God if we aren’t financially independent—we can serve God anytime, any place and under any circumstances that confront us. However, serving is easier to accomplish when our minds aren’t weighed down by financial concerns.
For example, if we have financial independence it’s easier to:
- Give to our churches and to the needy around us with a cheerful heart (2 Cor. 9:7).
- Concentrate on the needs and prayer concerns of others rather than focusing on our own problems.
- Making time for mission trips or volunteer work.
- Have regular quiet time for prayer and Bible study.
- Live a life that’s relatively free from worry and anxiety.
- Be ready to go where and when God calls to go.
Yes, we can participate in any of those activities even when we have pressing financial concerns, but they’re easier to do when we aren’t deeply concerned by a pile of bills we aren’t sure we can pay.
Financial Independence Doesn’t Require Being Wealthy
Financial independence isn’t about being wealthy. In fact, you could be wealthy by all objective standards and still not have financial independence. And perhaps that’s even the reason more people don’t seem to achieve it. When financial independence becomes a chase for more money, it’s never achieved because when it comes to money, enough is never enough.
Paul gives us a hint of a simpler course, one that will help us in our faith walks:
. . . and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. – 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 NIV
We have a few things working together here: minding your own business (keeping things simple), winning the respect of others (reflecting the glory of God through our integrity), working with our hands (making an honest living), and not being dependent on anybody (being a giver, not a receiver).
What does that kind of life look like in today’s world?
Living Within Your Means
In an age of easy credit, this has become something of a lost art. The ability to live at or a little below your means empowers you to live at just about any income level and still survive and maybe even thrive.
In the simplest of terms, this means that your expenses never exceed your income. That alone can prevent a pile of un-payable bills or the need to go into debt. By taking it a step further, and living beneath your means, you enable yourself to have extra money on a regular basis. That extra can give the sense of financial independence that we all need.
An Absence of Debt
Perhaps no other area of personal finance has greater capacity to interfere with the Christian walk than debt. In Proverbs 22:7 we read that “ . . . the borrower is slave to the lender”—if you are a slave you aren’t free, and you certainly don’t have financial independence.
When you have debt, your mind and your money are never far from it. “I’d like to give more/volunteer/do a mission trip but I have these debts I have to pay first, and if I don’t . . . .” Do you ever find yourself thinking this way? If you do, it doesn’t make you a bad person—it’s just an example of what debt can do to a person.
Having Only as Much Money as You’ll Reasonably Need
This is probably the most confusing aspect of financial independence, at least from a Christian perspective. Given the realities of life, we all need a certain amount of money—savings and investments—to prepare ourselves for the uncertainties of life. That preparation is an important part of achieving the financial independence that sets us free to more fully commit ourselves for Kingdom work.
But filling that need can also take us in the opposite direction. Nowhere does the “more is better” doctrine work more effectively than when it comes to money. We reach a goal then set a higher one. The final goal is never reached because the bar keeps getting higher.
That’s not financial independence, but attachment to the world. In Matthew 6:24 Jesus tells us, “You cannot serve both God and money.” Yes, we need to have a certain amount of savings, but we must never come to view money as our ultimate savior.
Enough money to cover reasonable contingencies is all we need to have financial independence. Sure we can save for long-term goals, like retirement, but we should see it as a financial tool, not obsess on it, and certainly not view it as the ultimate financial attainment in life.
Lack of Attachment to Things
We don’t always think of things in a financial sense, but they do have a strong impact on our finances and on our level of financial independence.
It’s difficult to have financial independence, or any sort of financial mobility at all, when you have a home with an outsized monthly payment or an appetite for expensive cars. If financial independence is truly a goal, those attachments will get in the way. It’s not just that they consume our money, but also that they influence our behavior in ways we often aren’t aware of. It’s possible, for example, to become obsessed with the fear of losing a major possession to the point that it interferes with our faith walk.
Attachment to things is not much different than an attachment to money, not the least of which because it takes money to buy things. That’s where the lack of independence starts.
Again, it’s not that we aren’t walking with God if we don’t have financial independence, and it’s hardly a sin if we don’t achieve it. But since financial independence leads to a life with fewer obstacles, having it can make our faith journey that much richer.
Do you ever think of financial independence from a faith perspective? What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below!