Recovering Financial FreedomDo you have the freedom to go where God leads, serve whom He brings to you and give what He asks of you?
Recovering freedom. That phrase in and of itself assumes we were once free and now we are not. When I think about this concept from a financial stewardship point of view, I believe that many of us in Canada would have to look back a long way in our lives to find a time when we were free from some kind of bondage to our money and possessions.
Many of us have been taught to view money and possessions in an unhealthy way which has resulted in bondage. We are enslaved because of our debt load. We are enslaved because of the time and energy required to look after all the stuff we've bought.
One of the goals of our stewardship ministry is to help people get to the point of being financially free. By this we mean – free to serve God. Free to go where He leads, to serve whom He brings to us, to give what He asks of us. This kind of "financial freedom" requires both a change of perspective as well as a change of behaviour.
Change of perspective
To recover financial freedom we need to change our perspective on ownership. Many of us we have come to believe that we are the owners of all we have. Scripture is very clear on this issue — God is the owner of everything and our role is simply to be faithful stewards.
Stewards are people who manage assets for the owner's benefit. They carry no sense of entitlement to the assets they manage and they understand that their job is to find out what the owner wants done with the assets and then carry out His will.
Many of us have come to believe that as long as we give our 10 percent then we can do as we please with the other 90 percent. But since God is the owner of everything, this is not a valid perspective. We need to transfer ownership of 100 percent of all that we have back to God. Once we do this, the rest of the steps to recovering financial freedom will begin to fall into place.
Change of behaviour
The road to financial freedom also requires a change in many of our behaviours. When we change our perspective, God will help us change our behaviour. He can be trusted to help us make better choices. One of the first actions we need to take is to include God in how we apportion of finances — giving, saving, and spending.
God is very generous to us in so many ways. Giving back to God financially acknowledges His provision to us — it is an act of worship, thanking Him and giving Him the glory for His generosity to us. In determining your giving, seek God's direction for both how much to give and where to give. As you are obedient to Him in this area of your life, you will be blessed. And don't be surprised if God directs you to give more than makes sense on paper. He does that to stretch us — to help to develop our faith and to remind us that He is in control.
Savings and investments are crucial to achieving financial freedom. It is important to have both short term savings — savings that can be used for emergencies or large purchases rather than relying on debt — and long term savings for retirement. Be diligent in putting away some money from every pay cheque into long term savings. As this money grows both from the principle you invest and the interest that is generated, you become less dependent on employment income and closer to financial freedom.
The area of spending is most likely where we need to change our behaviours the most. The average Canadian Household spent 112 percent of it's income in 2005. We are spending more than we make and consumer debt is on the rise. It's nearly impossible to be giving and saving the way God wants us to when we are spending so much on ourselves.
The most effective way to change our spending habits is to develop a spending plan. This is a written plan of all the ways you spend your money. Create categories for your spending and then put them in order of importance. Things like rent, mortgage, food, and clothing are more important than entertainment and recreation.
Take a look at your spending plan and see where you can make some changes to redirect money into giving and savings. If you have debt – either consumer debt like credit cards, car loans or mortgage debt – commit to paying it off as soon as possible. When you become debt free, you will feel such a weight lifted off your shoulders!
Many people feel like spending plans (okay so it's really a budget) are restrictive. How can I be talking about budgets in an article about recovering freedom? Let's look at a couple verses of Scripture to help explain my perspective: "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible" — but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others (see 1 Corinthians 10:23-24).
Freedom to do whatever we want sounds great. We want to be free from consequences as well. But that's not possible. Every action we take has a consequence – for me and for others. So while everything is permissible, it's not always beneficial. God wants us to be free from self indulgence and free to serve others. It is within this context that we will experience true freedom.
So as you develop your spending plan and make choices, remember it's not always about making a choice between something good or something bad — it's often about making the wisest choice for your situation. Include God as you seek to recover financial freedom — it's amazing how helpful His input really is.
For more help on your journey to recovering financial freedom, check out the following websites: www.generoussteward.org, www.crowncanada.ca and www.crown.org.
Joanne Bell is the Stewardship Development Director for The Free Methodist Church in Canada.
Originally published in Mosaic, Spring 2008.
Used with permission. Copyright © 2008 Christianity.ca.