At 23, I had saved more than $100,000, earned more than $130,000 per year, and tithed to my church. In most circles, I would have qualified as the “poster child” of financial maturity. According to Scripture, however, I was far from the mark.
By John Cortines
Ever since I had my world turned upside down by carefully reading the Bible on money, I’ve begun using three tests of financial maturity for myself.
A debt-free multi–millionaire can fail these tests; an indebted college student can pass. Indeed, “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). While it is wise to follow plans and advice that lead to “financial freedom,” it is pointless to do so without first obtaining a freedom of the heart that only comes from passing the tests below–tests that carry wisdom governing how we should relate to God and money.
Test one: Are you content in your circumstances?
You know that famous saying, “I can do all things through Christ?” Typically, we see this quote in isolation. In context, however, Paul was actually talking about financial contentment! Here’s the full quote:
“ … for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
– Philippians 4:11–13
Paul knew where his real treasure was, and this meant he held loosely to earthly treasure. He’d had the finest tutors, stayed in lovely homes and owned a business. And he also missed meals, faced shipwrecks and was flogged. Through it all, his eyes were on a higher prize, and this meant he could sing God’s praises from a jail cell.
The writer of Hebrews encourages the same mindset: “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).
These passages encourage us to rely upon God for provision and satisfaction, rather than the things that money can buy. So, when your checking account is over–drafted and your roof starts leaking, when you really want a new car that you can’t afford, when your student loans are looming large, will you still rejoice in the strength of God?
Financially mature Christians will be content with their lives today, rather than impatiently waiting for a better tomorrow.
What was 23–year–old John’s grade on this test? An ‘F.’ I wanted to buy a nicer house, to take better vacations, to save more and more money. The thought of losing what I had terrified me.