How Much is Enough?
As many of you know I have taught for years on finances and even developed a seminar called Financially Free. One of the subjects that I recently did some research on was how much income should we strive for as a philosophy of life. While there isn’t a rigid formula in the Scriptures, there are some principles to guide us. In addition some interesting secular research helps us to chart a successful course.
The main Scripture that helps me is Proverbs 30:8b-9. This passage says “…give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.” The obvious question is what are “riches” and “poverty”?
The answer depends on lot on where you live in the world and the size of family you have. Section 8 housing can seem like riches to people living in refugee camps. If one lives in Beverly Hills having a home of 1600 square feet on a small lot might seem like poverty. So while this may offer some help, it is not the best measurement of meeting the above mentioned goal.
Better criteria is what is a need verses a want. By definition a financial need is what constitutes having enough to function in this life in the culture where you live. In 1 Timothy 6:8, Paul states that if we have enough food and clothing that should make us content. While this statement is based on the culture he was in, the principle still stands. What do we need in order to have enough?
A Princeton University study that was done in 2010 and then relooked at in 2014 concluded that an overall benchmark figure of $75,000 is the point at which people were the happiest financially. If anyone made more than this figure they weren’t any happier. Think of that!!! People making 10 million dollars a year are no happier than those that make $75,000 a year.
Another piece of practical help comes from noted Christian financial teacher, Ron Blue. Blue says to pick a figure that meets needs, including such things as vacations, Christmas presents, going out to eat once a week, retirement planning, kids college education etc. Once you establish that figure, then that is all you need. He then says to give away everything you make above that figure. You might say, “Well I earned that one million dollars a year, I deserve to keep more for me”. That all may be true that you got paid that amount while others who work just as hard get paid less. The fact remains you won’t be any happier according to research and the Bible, so why complain about something that is for your benefit and the benefit of others.
Do you know that there are specific references in the Scriptures to where there was no poverty among any of the believers because they lived out this principle of being satisfied with their needs being met? One example is in Acts 4:32, 34-35 where it states, “All the believers were of one heart and one mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had… There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need.”
In Justo Gonzalez’s book, Faith and Wealth, he studied the money beliefs of the church in the first five centuries. One of the core beliefs was that rich people were to be pitied because the church was convinced that rich people would have a hard time knowing Jesus as their Savior and entering heaven. A second belief and the most important driving force in the church’s attitude about money was the needs of others. If someone had a need and you were in a fellowship that could meet that need, then you didn’t think twice about giving financial help.
The real key I believe is a heart issue:
Jesus taught us to be aware of all kinds of greed (Luke 12:15, “Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’”).
If riches increase, don’t set your heart on them (Psalm 62:10, “If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them”)
If Christians want riches to be their goal, then the outcome is temptation, evil, sorrow, and even wanting to leave the faith (1 Timothy 6:9-10, “But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.”)
Remember it is not wrong to have a good income and once in a while spending on something a little more extravagant can be fun and enjoyable. But what I am talking about here is a lifestyle. Think of the amazing possibilities of everyone having all their needs met and the joy of helping others achieve that goal. When we then say “Merry Christmas”, it would truly be that for everyone we know.