Over the last few months, I’ve had a lot of personal changes. Our family has moved back to the States after living overseas. I’ve made the transition from working as a missionary to a missional entrepreneur.
In the midst of all the transition, I’ve had to make a lot of important decisions. What has amazed me most about it is how often fear becomes one of the key motivating factors when making a decision.
As I’ve talked with others, I’ve noticed this theme repeated. Fear takes a much more important role in our decision making that any of us cares to admit.
Finance, Giving, and Fear
I’m now self-employed in the sense that no one regularly writes me a check for a set amount of money.
Our family has committed to living according to something called the graduated tithe. When God has provided us with more than what we need in any given year, the opportunity is open for us to use those resources for God’s good work.
But a question always lingers in the back of my mind – what if business is slow next year? Will I regret giving that money instead of saving it? What if my investments don’t work out?
At the root these questions stem from fear.
The Faith and Fear Battle
I think of faith and fear as two ends of a teeter-totter (or see-saw, depending on your background). As one increases, the other decreases.
When Jesus walked on the water (Mt. 14:22-33), the disciples’ first reaction was one of fear. When Peter started to walk on the water, he began to feel afraid. Jesus questions him, insinuating that the doubt is a lack of faith. When our fear grows, it is a sign that our faith is decreasing.
While the disciples were in a boat during a storm, they feared for their lives (Lk. 8:22-25). Once He calms the storm, Jesus questions them about their absence of faith. The assumption is that where there is more faith, there is less fear.
I believe there are occasions when God calls us to manage our finances from foundations of faith, but we’re paralyzed by fear.
The Curse of the “What If”
- What if I leave my job for that ministry … will I be able to pay my bills?
- What if I give a portion of my income … will I still be able to eat?
- What if I save more for retirement … will I be able to retire with dignity?
- What if I don’t save this money … will I have enough for tomorrow?
The curse of the “what if” is that we can think of every possible variable if something goes wrong. Instead of trusting, we want control. We want to save every dollar so we can feel secure. We want to invest a lot of money so we can stand on our own strength.
The problem is that as long as fear is our guiding financial consideration, we end up doing nothing for God. We don’t do God’s will because we fear what might or might not happen in the future.
Yet, having faith is exactly what God calls us to do. In Matthew 6:25-34, I believe that God is saying that He will provide our needs if we walk with faith. Too many of us won’t do what God wants us to do because fear paralyzes us. How can God’s good work continue when our lives are ruled by fear? The only alternative is to give greater priority to faith. By choosing to live by faith, we diminish the role of fear in our finances.
Faith and Fear Caveats
- We are called to trust him when we’re doing His work and responsibly managing what he’s entrusted to us. The point of this article is not to say don’t get a job, stay at home and watch TV, and trust God to provide. We need to be active doing what God wants us to do and be sure that we’re seeking first the kingdom in the midst of the good work we are doing.
- We are called to give a reasonable amount of attention to our own financial needs. In 1 Tim. 5:16, we are reminded that if we are able, we should not be a burden to the church. I know many people who refuse to take care of their own financial needs and say that they are doing it based on faith. As Christians, we are best able to help others when we remove ourselves from the potential of being a burden to the church.
Have you ever noticed yourself making financial decisions based on fear? What do you do to keep your focus in the right place? How do you overcome financial fear?