It seems pretty natural for Christians to desire to be guided by the wisdom found in the Bible. However, as I have worked in the financial services industry for close to 30 years, I have discovered that often what guides many Christians is not significantly different than non-Christians; culture is often a greater influence than scripture.
James 3:15-17 makes it very clear that there is a vast difference between wisdom that is earthly vs. wisdom from above. The basis of all financial decisions should be wisdom from above, but as Ron Blue, the founder of Kingdom Advisors states, “Traditional financial planning is based on earthly wisdom.” Earthly wisdom contains such things as jealousy, selfishness, and an unspiritual focus. The Contemporary English Version clarifies:
Whenever people are jealous or selfish, they cause trouble and do all sorts of cruel things.
For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and every evil practice. (Christian Standard Bible)
This passage is often not considered in relation to finances, but the truth is many Christians are financially motivated by selfish ambition and have thoughts of envy when comparing themselves to others. We cannot really escape the truth that what guides many Christians is “earthly wisdom,” and not “the wisdom from above.”
But the wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy. (James 3:17 Good News Translation)
Lives that are lived based on non-traditional financial planning, “wisdom from above,” or guided by the Bible will produce a harvest of good deeds which comes from being filled with compassion.
Consider your perspective on retirement and what shapes that view. Retirement is often seen as the opportunity to focus more on pleasure and leisure; therefore, the major purpose of financial planning is to get you to a place where you can afford to do exactly that. Our culture has positioned retirement as a time of ceasing from work for a life of leisure; however, this lifestyle will likely be a lot less fulfilling. No doubt, leisure is meant to be part of our lives, but I am not convinced it is to be all-consuming.
Please reflect on “the wisdom from above” around retirement. May I suggest that producing “a harvest of good deeds” should not be limited to our working years but extend into our retirement years.
Mitch Anthony, in his book “The New Retirementality” shares this wisdom:
For the past 15 to 20 years the institution of retirement has been morphing into something other than what we are familiar with. The idea has been evolving slowly toward something other than a playground for senior citizens. The revolution taking place is that many are seeing this stage of life as just the opposite – the most fertile period of life for meaningful pursuit.
Consider this biblical wisdom: “There is nothing better for a person than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand.” (Eccl. 2:24 CSB) This verse seems a perfect description for retirement, but one thing on the list doesn’t seem to fit … work. Is it possible that culture has developed a distorted view of work?
Culture today positions work as something that defines who we are. When we meet someone for the first time we usually ask, “What do you do?” It is as if our job or position defines us. Work is often referred to as “a necessary evil,” or drudgery and simply a means of earning income. The general thinking is: the harder I work, the greater my income because work is the source of income. If work provides no more meaning than this, it makes perfect sense to work toward retirement and leave our place of employment as soon as we can. Maybe we have allowed culture to shape our thinking around work and retirement more than discovering biblical wisdom on the topic.
It is of vital importance to live our lives intentionally seeking out wisdom (from above) to guide us. Look at Eph 2:10 (CSB):
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.
From this verse we learn:
- We are a product of God working in our lives, so in essence, He defines us; it is not our work that defines us.
- We are created to work (work is normative and expected).
- Our work is to be good work (completed with excellence for the good of others having eternal impact).
- God has prepared us and equipped us with skills, intelligence experiences, etc. to complete the work He planned for us.
- The focus and motivation of our work should not be income. God is the source of our income and uses the work He gave us to do as a means of supply for our needs. Refer to Matt. 6:32-33 (NLT) where unbelievers’ thoughts are dominated by worry for future supply of needs, but those who seek the Kingdom above all else are given all they need (God is their supply). The personal income of believers is linked to trust in God and their focus is not earning that income, but simply doing the work that was prepared for them.
Simply seeing work as something that God has prepared for us to do should shift our thinking. If God has prepared us for this work, how can we retire from it?
Mitch Anthony often says,
“Don’t retire from something, retire to something.”
The point is that you may very well retire from your job or career, but retirement should become an opportunity to continue in your calling, maybe in a different form. You may or may not be paid for this “work” but it will be very meaningful. Anthony stresses the importance of “extracting the most meaning from the means you possess.”
As a Christian, what influences your financial decisions most – earthly wisdom or wisdom from above?