Do you remember the story of the twelve spies Moses sent into the Promised Land to report about the land? Ten of the spies returned to Moses and told him how terrified they were of the “giants” who lived in the land, while two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, returned to tell Moses, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” (Numbers 13:30 – NKJV)
The difference between the ten spies and Joshua and Caleb was a simple thing: their perspective. The ten believed in the strength of the opponent; the two believed in the strength of God.
William Cook, in Success, Motivation, and the Scriptures defines success as, “the continued achievement of being the person God wants me to be, and the continued achievement of established goals God helps me set.” In contrast, my oldest daughter once defined success in worldly terms as, “having whatever you want when you want it.” How very different!
What is your perspective on success?
Christian and non-Christian alike are concerned with success. Success is always related to our goals. The difference, as with the spies, is in our perspective. One view focuses on immediate gratification and self-promotion while the other focuses on an unseen eternity and treasure in heaven.
What you focus on determines your attitudes and actions. A Christian’s focus, perspective, or worldview will determine their financial decisions and will distinguish their decisions from those who are not believers.
Jesus used many word pictures and analogies to communicate to His followers about our focus and goals. I’ve chosen a few themes that have struck me through the years but would encourage you to ask the Lord what His definition of “success” looks like for your life, based on Scripture.
Salt and Light: Matthew 5: 13 – 16 (NIV)
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds, and praise your Father in heaven.”
What being “salt and light” means about money:
As with other areas, your finances should be different from, not better than, others in the world. You may or may not have more than your friend, but the amount is not the distinguishing factor. The distinguishing factor for you is that you are free from anxiety because your money and your “toys” don’t possess you. You are prayerful and you plan, therefore you are confident. You know that Christ’s promises of abundance and security don’t rest in temporal things but rather rest on His character and His eternal plan. Your perspective is eternal; you hold your possessions with an open hand; and your lifestyle is free from anxiety about money.
Servant: Mark 10:43-45 (NKJV), I Timothy 6:18 (NIV)
“Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
“Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds and to be generous and willing to share.”
What being a “servant” means about money:
Money is one of the primary resources that a believer can use to serve others. Money is in greater abundance among American Christians than among almost any other group of believers. How generous are we?
Some are very generous. Believers who have answered the question, “Why am I here?” tend to be generous in using their money to serve others. As Rick Warren says in his book, The Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you.” Since financial planning is the predetermined use of financial resources to accomplish certain goals and objectives, a person who sees their role in the world as a servant will use their financial resources to fulfill that God given role.
Others of us are not as generous. In the 2008 book, Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don’t Give Away More Money, authors Smith, Emerson, and Snell found that 22% of all American Christians gave nothing, 71% gave less than 2% of their income, and 9% gave 10% or more. They conjecture that with “reasonably generous giving,” Christians in America could generate an additional $133.4 billion per year for the cause of service to the world. Imagine the possibilities if we saw ourselves as servants and used our money to serve!
As I said, there are many analogies that Jesus uses to explain to a believer how we can and should view our definition of success. These are just two examples. My point is to express to you that our financial decisions are different because our lens is different. What lens is God asking you to look through as you view your money right now?