We can all excuse ourselves from the discussion of wealth if only we compare ourselves to those only a little above us economically. But looking at the bigger picture, I and most of the people I know would be considered among the wealthy of this world.
As stated in the previous post, as our prosperity and affluence increase, so does the distance from our financial limitations. Many of the questions we ask ourselves are no longer based on what we can afford but questions like this: 1) Should I feel blessed, obligated, or guilty about accumulated wealth? 2) How much is enough for us, for our kids and grandkids? 3) Are there limitations I should put on my lifestyle other that what I can afford? 4) Should I give more, and if so to whom, how much, when and how?
Without road signs or even a fixed reference point, you must learn to navigate by a different set of principles. Each of these principles is something you develop over time and each is based on an element of faith. Better said, without faith they won’t make any sense.
The FIRST FINANCIAL PRINCIPLE OF NAVIGATION is the sense of OWNERSHIP. It is not uncommon today to hear people boldly affirm, “God owns it all.” God’s ownership is indeed confirmed throughout the scriptures.
The underlying theme in several of Jesus’ parables was one or more stewards being entrusted with possessions to manage but who in time forgot the nature of the relationship and began to act like an owner rather than a manager. That same idea can seen in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King. Denethor and his ancestors were stewards of Gondor who had been charged with managing the kingdom until a rightful king (Aragon) returned to claim what his throne. But after so many years, Denethor began to act as if it is his own kingdom.
I have had the privilege of getting to know some individuals who live with such a keen awareness of God’s ownership that it seems to be an easy and natural part of their every financial decision. Yet, for many of us that kind of spiritual clarity seems to come and go.
Working out the practices of God owning it all is not simple as proclaiming it. If everything we have belongs to God, then at some point as stewards or managers we have to begin giving ourselves an allowance. And how much should that allowance be? That is not exactly spelled out in great detail in the Bible. There seems to be a lot of “manager discretion.” In time we can get so free and comfortable with the idea of discretionary spending as the steward-in-charge that the concept of God’s ownership has little or no practical impact on our lives. Eventually, we can become like Denethor, maintaining the title of steward but acting like it is all ours.
There is no big secret to this first principle of financial navigation. Sensing the reality of God’s provision, God’s ownership, and of our stewardship is product of a sincere and consistent devotional life.