Do You Know Why Christians Need Financial Independence?

Abe Believes in Independence

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:

  1. Give to our churches and to the needy around us with a cheerful heart (2 Cor. 9:7).
  2. Concentrate on the needs and prayer concerns of others rather than focusing on our own problems.
  3. Making time for mission trips or volunteer work.
  4. Have regular quiet time for prayer and Bible study.
  5. Live a life that’s relatively free from worry and anxiety.
  6. 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!

  1. DC @ Young Adult Money

    Great points! When I read your points 1-6 above I was thinking “Yep. Yep. Yep.” They are all spot on. We are in significant amount of student debt and working very hard to get out while also doing fun things like a vacation every once in a while, AND being involved at church, AND keeping up with friends/family. It’s a bit overwhelming to say the least. If we got out of debt and had a nice financial reserve I would be able to accomplish those six points you mentioned above.

    • Kevin M

      Hi DC–I can see your point, a financial reserve covers a lot of weak spots in your life. But you’ll have it in time. Once your student loans are gone, the path will get clearer and you’ll be able to make up for lost time. You’re already heading in the right direction.

  2. Brent Pittman

    Student debt and underwater homes are becoming a large factor keeping American missionaries from going to the field. I would go so far to say as debt is limiting the spreading of the great commission to the nations.

    • Kevin M

      Hi Brent–Yes, it seems like an unholy combination and it’s affecting a lot of people. I think that should create an incentive to go against the prevailing tide of borrowing and living life on the expensive side. If we can bring faith into the finance equation as a motivation it might give a higher purpose to fixing some of these money troubles, at least on an individual level.

  3. Tom Strauss

    All very good points, Kevin! I view lack of attachment to things as the key. When we’re content with what God has given us, we’re free to do what He wants us to do with our lives. But when possessions have a hold of us, we struggle to hear that still small voice that should be guiding us. Thanks for the great article!

    • Kevin M

      Exactly Tom! There’s a cultural norm of trading up on nearly every type of possession–cars, houses, furniture, and even vacations and entertainment equipment. Look at the current new wave with the iPhone 5, as if the earlier models are no longer valid. So it is with nearly everything–out with the old, in with the new. That’s a terribly expensive way to live.

  4. Ben Watt

    I don’t do #1 nearly enough, and I need to work on that. I really enjoy the feeling of writing a check and putting in the offering plate as it passes…I get so hung up on “we can’t afford it”, that I don’t trust that God will provide, when I know full well that He is and does! argh!

    #2 used to be a major issue for me…I was so focused on my needs, that I was overlooking the needs of the people that were the most important to me!

    #3 is a work in progress – I’m an AWANA’s leader…and it’s been quite a blessing thus far!
    #4 – I’m up to about 5 of 7 days…working diligently to make it 7 out of 7!!
    #5 – that’s an ultimate goal for me!
    #6 – I know He has big plans for me…I can feel the tug on my heart…and I’m just the type of person that would be willing to drop everything right now and leave, if I just knew what it was. #4 is going to help with that!

    Great post….LOVE your blog!

    • Kevin M

      Thanks Ben! Think of each of the six as journies more than as destinations. We’re all a work in progress from God’s perspective!

  5. Scott

    “Crack”– that was the sound of the bat sending the ball over the wall. Excellent post. If there is one thing that is enslaving the church which hinders its mission, it is finances. I agree with all of the comments posted above. You have given us a lot to chew on. Thanks!

    • Kevin M

      Thanks Scott! No matter how hard we try it’s hard to separate finances from nearly everything else in life, and that includes faith. That should give us extra incentive to master our finances.

  6. Ron Dickinson

    You are right on brother !
    I just wrote this blog.
    not nearly as eloquent as yours, but I was limited in space.
    You covered all the aspects very well.

    • Kevin M

      Thanks Ron. I definately think it’s a subject we all need to spend a lot more time on.

  7. Kevin M

    That’s true MB. We should maybe think of finances as a form of worldliness, and something we need to overcome. I’m not sure it’s that simple, because finances encompass so much in life. But I definately agree that we have to get over the desire for material possessions. It’s a societal norm, and we may not even think we do it.

  8. Kevin M

    Hi Sabina, It’s very much the rejection of worldliness, and it’s a step we have to take.

  9. Dawn

    I never really thought of it from that perspective.. I was more praying for my finances to get better. I need to be freed from financial debt it would help a great deal. Financial debt has put me in such a bad place and I don’t even know where to begin to get out of it. Credit card debt, checking account debt and school loan debt unbelievable. As a single mom of 5 I went back to school at 36 to help with debt figuring i could get a degree and a better job. well i lost my job, lost my house, lost my car, and after a year I’m back to work but I have student loans almost or already in default didn’t get my degree and living in a 2 bedroom with 5 children trying to find a solution to this madness. Seems like I can never save. My tax return never last longer then a month trying to play catch up from all the things we can’t get through out the year. I get a substantial amount of taxes back with 5 children but we are struggling.

    • Kevin M

      Hi Dawn–There’s a federal student loan relief program called the Income-Based Repayment Plan, and it may help you with at least that part of your financial situation. Check out the program here: They lower the student loan payments to a percentage of your income, so if you’re on unemployment, it will be a percentage of that.

      Have you looked into some sort of help from your church or some faith based charities in your area? They may be able to get you into a low cost housing situation that could buy you time to get on your feet.

      You might also want to talk to a bankruptcy attorney about discharging your debts. You won’t be able to discharge the student loan debt, but what ever other debt will be discharged will improve your situation. Also see if your church offers any kind of financial counseling, or can point you toward a support group. Having a community of believers around can be a big help, especially over the long run.

      Your primary concern is your five children and anything you can do to lighten your load will help toward that end. And don’t stop praying! God’s timing isn’t our timing, but He will be there for you, even if you don’t see it until you look back years later.

  10. Norma

    I’ve been living this way for the last few years. I have never felt so free. I never want to go back to my old ways, it was stealing my peace and joy. Attachment to things is just too much emotional work.

    • Kevin M

      Hi Norma–As it says in 1 John 2:16 “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” You’re a living example of someone who has risen above this and now witnesses it. Keep up the good work!

  11. Lena @ WhatMommyDoes

    I often think about financial independence from a Biblical perspective. Even though I am not financially independent in the strictest sense, as I keep on track to meet my retirement/college fund-type goals, I find myself becoming less and less attached to money. To me, financial independence means having more time to help others and teach them to do the same. That’s why I ultimately started my blog. Yes, it’s nice to make money blogging, but it’s not a means to an end. It’s just something that helps free up my time so I can focus on being a better citizen and church member. I am very fortunate to have everything I need; sometimes, though, it’s hard to stop myself from buying wants, but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t struggle with that.

    • Kevin M

      Hi Lena–We can probably say that financial independence arrives when money doesn’t matter as much, or at least when it stops becoming an obsession. Your heading in the right direction by funding retirement and college, it’ll really payoff in the future.

    • Lena @ WhatMommyDoes

      I sure hope so. That’s the goal! 🙂

  12. OL

    Very straight to the point and coming at a time when it has become so easy to lose focus on why we have been given the power to make wealth. Not getting caught up in the mad frenzy of materialism requires deliberate effort. Enough is never really enough when it comes to money. I’ve had to go over the points again and again to be sure they all sink in. This blog has really blessed me. Thank you.

    • Kevin M

      Hi OL–The world is definately a force and it makes us do things we shouldn’t. When we decide to go a different way, the world is reminding us why we need to get back on the path. The problem is that we’re all indoctrinated to spend and “live well”, and the only way to change that is by being very purposeful. In effect, we have to become counter-cultural, which is a position that Christians today don’t necessarily feel comforable being in.

  13. Dana Che

    “Financial Independence doesn’t require being wealthy.” I like how you remind us against the temptation of materialism. In business, it’s easy to slip into the “Gotta have more, more, more” mentality. If we aren’t careful, we will become slaves to money and possessions.Great article!

    • Kevin M

      Hi Dana–Yeah, there really is a balance there, and a line we shouldn’t cross. We can reason that if a little wealth creates financial independence, than more wealth will make us even more independent. At that point we’re heading straight into worldliness, and right into the very trap we’re trying to escape in the first place–life where money is the measure of all things. Knowing where that line is the really hard part.