One dominant aspect of the Abrahamic covenant between God and the Jews is wealth. The Jews as a people control vast financial resources even in our world today. God understands that one cannot be truly free until one is financially free. The Bible teaches that the rich rule over the poor so those Christians who believe that money is unholy need to have a rethink. While we do not serve money, it is important that we are financially independent. If we are expected to have dominion, and the rich rule over the poor, then a part of our mandate of dominion hinges on financial independence.
It has been established that money is vital. Let’s also establish the premise on which this blog is built; The Master is Shrewd. In my short walk with God, I have come to learn that He does not supply resources where there is mismanagement. There is abundant evidence in the Bible to support that He believes in productivity and efficiency. That has always been His method and it will continue to be. I will share more on this in a future post.
His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness! – Matthew 25:21 (NIV)
It therefore makes sense that one way the devil ensures that Christians are ineffective in carrying out our God given mandate of dominion is to make us impoverished by leading us into money temptations.
As I wrote the post before the last on double-veiled temptation, I was inspired down this path from the same text – the famous temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11. There are three distinct types of money temptations revealed to me from the temptation of Jesus. I address one in this post while the other two will come in subsequent posts for the week.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ – Matthew 4:1-4 (NLT)
The first temptation as seen from this text is an enticement to engage in instant gratification. Delayed gratification is a test of discipline. Jesus was hungry and justifiably so – He had been fasting. Satan tried to trick him into instant gratification which is a major trap most people fall into with money. The discipline to delay gratification is lacking. This is not a denial as Jesus was eventually going to eat; it was a delay. The variable was the timing. Delayed gratification is the ability to resist a smaller but immediate reward while waiting for a larger more enduring reward in the future. The bedrock of delayed gratification is discipline. It has been said that the ability to delay gratification as a young child is a powerful predictor of the future academic and professional achievements of a person. I believe it is also a predictor of the future financial state of a person.
We live in a world of instant gratification. We must have everything now. Why wait till I can afford it when I can get it financed today? The nobility in waiting is almost extinct especially in the consumer driven economies of the western world where governments go out of their way to ‘stimulate spending’. Everything that surrounds you is beckoning on your wallet. Stores everywhere with bright lights, malls, an assortment of seasonal sales, societal pressure, readily available funds through ‘interest free’ credit cards, payday loans, and low interest rates all feed our obsession with instant gratification.
Financial freedom will require great levels of discipline. Jesus could have turned stones to bread but that was neither the right time nor the right way to eat. There is no reward where there has been no sacrifice. There are so many things we do long before we ought to do them. Can you wait a year before you get that new car? Can you wait fifteen more minutes to get home for dinner instead of making a stop at the closest fast food restaurant? Can you wait a few more years before up-sizing to a larger house? Can the sleek new iPhone with ‘upgraded features’ wait a few months?
Lance Cothern, a personal finance blogger and founder of Money Manifesto, theorizes that, “the difference between those with consumer debt and those without, all things being equal, is that the person without has mastered delayed gratification while the other has not. It is the ability to wait for two mash mellows in 15 minutes instead of one mash mellow now.”
Delayed gratification deals with genuine needs but are seldom as urgent as we make them out to be. We see a classic example in Genesis 26. Esau was hungry and sought instant gratification. He could not wait for an hour which is how long it would have taken him to whip up a meal for himself without having to sell his birthright. However he buckled under the pressure of the moment and made a permanent decision based on a temporary situation. A person who cannot practice delayed gratification is selling his birthright just as Esau did – losing something of greater worth for the pleasure of the moment.
When you seem to be under pressure to spend some money, consciously engage yourself in a cross-examination to determine if it can be delayed. It requires discipline and endurance but very attainable when supported with the understanding that the deferred reward will be greater. Instant gratification costs us something. It cost us our future. Instant gratification leads to waste, poverty, shame and loss of dignity as in the case of the ‘prodigal’ son in Luke 15. Let us extend the adopted practice of conscious living to our finances and refuse to engage in instant gratification just as Jesus refused to turn stones to bread. Shalom.