I’ve walked alongside families over the past ten years, helping them on their journey to managing their wealth. Some of the first questions I ask when I engage with families are, “What is your goal? What are you trying to accomplish?”
Many times the answer is, “I want to be financially independent.”
At first, this sounds like a good idea. Who doesn’t want to be independent? It has the ring of responsibility to it.
But as I’ve learned to integrate biblical thinking about wealth into my work and think about how to best walk with my clients on their journey to God-honoring personal finance and wealth management, I’ve come to ask, “Is financial independence what we really want? Is it biblical? Does it bring joy?”
To answer these questions, let’s first look at our culture’s definition of financial independence, and then we’ll look at what Scripture has to say.
Here are a couple textbook definitions of financial independence:
- MacMillan Dictionary: “The ability to make financial decisions and live your life free from the control or influence of other people.”
- Wikipedia: “Financial independence is generally used to describe the state of having sufficient personal wealth to live, without having to work actively for basic necessities.”
So financial independence is living a life where you don’t have to depend on others nor have to work. Does this make for a fulfilling life?
Let’s see what Scripture has to say:
- Genesis 2:15: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
- Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”
- Acts 20:35: “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
- Ephesians 2:10: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
- I Timothy 6:17-19: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
We are created to work. God has created us uniquely for a particular purpose. If we stop working, we deny our design and we will not be fulfilled.
- Acts 17:28: “For in Him we live and move and have our being.”
- Matthew 6:19-20: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.”
Scripture teaches that living in dependence on Jesus is a glorious adventure. That’s where the good life is; living and working in collaboration with him.
In The Treasure Principle, Randy Alcorn tells the story of two men who achieved financial independence and their thoughts on having achieved it:
- Henry Ford amassed a fortune developing the Ford cars. He certainly did not have to depend on anyone for financial decisions, and he did not have to work for money. However, he said: “I was happier when doing a mechanic’s job.”
- John D. Rockefeller also amassed a fortune. When he was asked, “How much is enough?” he answered, “Just a little bit more.” Toward the end of his life, he said, “I have made many millions, but they have brought me no happiness. I would barter them all for the days I sat on an office stool in Cleveland and counted myself rich on three dollars a week.”
So it seems like financial independence is really not a worthwhile goal. Financial independence is really close to the definition of hell. The Scottish author George MacDonald says,
For the one principle of hell is: “I am my own.”
This isn’t really what we want.
I am starting to grasp that the good life is found in a life of dependence on God and interdependence on others. Joy is found in community where we depend on Jesus continually. When we partner with Jesus, our perspective changes. We see miracles happening, we begin each day with a joyful expectation waiting to see what will happen. This is the intimate adventure he offers us.
So many people are seeking to gain financial independence. Is that what we really want? Having enough money so we don’t have to work anymore or don’t need any money or people to help us? Is that the abundant life Jesus is talking about? I am not so sure.