“I make too much to feel this broke…”
What a statement! Yet, this is how many people are feeling today. Usually, we feel broke when we look around and see what others have, or how they are living, and then we have an introspective moment which causes us to compare ourselves to others.
I am sure you know, but let me say it anyways…there is a danger in comparison!
Think about it. You can feel “broke” based on your comparison. Many today define what “broke” is by comparing themselves to other people! “I see other people doing these wonderful things, but I can’t!” “What’s wrong with me? They must be doing much better than I am.”
Without a doubt, many Christian stewards feel this way. They are looking at the external activities and possessions without looking at the comparative costs. For example, we see our cohorts going on the nice vacations, buying the nice cars, and we get jealous, or even covet what they have. Have you been there? Possibly in the secret depths of your mind?
However, what we don’t see is:
- They may lack a generous heart.
- They may lack generosity to their church.
- They may have amassed great debt.
- They may be burdened down by the ownership of certain items.
- They may have acquired debt involved on these vacations, cars, and much more.
- They may have spent a great deal of emotional energy on accumulation of living in luxury and acquiring items.
- They may be overwhelmed (mental energy and agony) in trying to figure out which bill to pay.
For many people, their lifestyle is bigger than their income. And sadly, their lifestyle is borrowing from tomorrow to live larger today!
“Americans’ total credit card balance is $986 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to the latest consumer debt data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That’s the highest total since the New York Fed began tracking in 1999. It marks a $61 billion jump from $925 billion in the third quarter of 2022, making it the largest quarterly increase in the history of the report” (Lending Tree).
Sadly, people are accumulating large amounts of debt, and this debt makes them appear wealthy.
You may be one that has committed to not taking out loans, and because of this, you may feel broke because you may look broke (using a “comparative” look at those around me or who I am looking at). But, choosing to live within your means is a conscious choice so that when you do make a purchase, it will be an “asset” to your net-worth, and not a “liability” or toward your future income (which is stealing from tomorrow to make life “seem” better today, thus making life tomorrow a lot more difficult potentially).
What is success?
If you’re measuring it by the world’s standards, you will never be “successful” Why? The goal-post keeps on moving and it moves further away from you! If you measure success based on what Scripture states (Joy, Contentment, Glorifying God), then you can feel satisfied with where you are. You don’t need a $50k vehicle to be content or satisfied. You don’t have to keep chasing the wind!
So let’s break down the title of this piece, and talk through it.
“I make too much…”
The phrase “Too much” is a comparison to ”not enough” or in our episode, the word “broke.” So think about and answer the questions, What is “too much?” What is “a lot?” Do I have what the world thinks is a good income? Do I have a good income compared to the average person in my community? The median (midpoint) household income in Pennsylvania is roughly $63,000/year. There is about a $45k difference between the median income for the most expensive “state” (Washington DC = $91k) and the lowest median income (Mississippi = $46.5k). (World Population Review)
“…To feel this broke”
- “I feel like I have no margin in my life and budget.”
- “I seem to be always working to maintain what I have.”
- “I am spending more than I make”
- “Debt is encapsulating me and my family because of my/our choices and desired lifestyle.”
- “I don’t have the ability to cover unforeseen expenses as much as I would like.”
What causes one to ‘feel broke’?
- Living on more than you make
- Not having an effective budget (and living within it)
- Comparing yourself to others.
- Unrecognized cause…. Lack of generosity (Haggai 1)
The challenge that we face is the lure of the American dream, the desire for ‘more’
- More experience
- More opportunities
- More money
- More stuff
- Bigger is better…(house, car, etc.) and…
- I want what I want, when I want it.
There is a dichotomy here…. “I have a good income, why do I feel this broke?” vs “I have a low to average income, and I feel satisfied”
How do we go from feeling broke, to being satisfied, no matter our situation?
Understand what Stewardship is really all about. Glorifying God through:
- Giving to the Lord (first-fruits!)
- Trusting God that He can make you live off of 90% of your income in a way that provides for 100% of your needs! Are we robbing God of His tithes and offerings?
- Protecting your family with savings…
- with saving for the future!
- Honoring to pay all your debts
- Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Rom. 13:7)
- Giving to those in need
- Proverbs 19:17 – He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, And He will pay back what he has given.
- Enjoying God’s gifts
- 1 Timothy 6:17 “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.”
- Know who you are.
- Understand where your real source of meaning and value comes from. It’s not in consumption or consumerism. Your value and meaning is found in who you are in Christ. Being found in Christ. Paul felt content because he was found in Christ. Union with Christ is all he needed (Rom 8). But Paul continues to go deeper and wider (as he almost always does) and he speaks of contentment.
- Paul encourages us to go to war with the sin in your own heart of covetousness and jealousy.
- For one to be content, you have to “learn” it…as Paul did. “I have learned contentment…” Philippians 4:11-12 – NIV
- How do we learn contentment?
- Day-by-day process of understanding that you don’t need to be lured into every marketing scheme and new efforts to reach into your piggy bank. One of consumerism’s ploys is to make you feel less if you do not have their product, thus producing in you the felt “need” of their product or service
- Budget well
- Grow Savings
- BE COMMITTED to SAVE! It needs to be a conviction, not a convenience.
- Short-term savings (this year and a little beyond)
- Long-term savings (big purchases and redeployment/retirement)
- New View of Debt
- You will need to LEARN to have a new view of debt!
- Avoid new debt (cut up the cards!)
- Pay down your current debt as quickly as you can!
- Credit cards are not evil, but carrying a balance cuts into you being able to care for your stewardship needs both today and in the future!
You may be like the many people that we interact with during Life Institute’s Stewardship Lifestyle Seminar, where they are making a higher salary than the national average, but they are still struggling to make ends meet. They feel broke and yet they are making a very good wage.
If this is you, it is time to stop and process! Where you are financially? Are you doing well financially, yet struggling to make ends meet? How did you get where you are today? Are your eyes longing for items and a life that is bigger than your income???
What changes do I need make?
The ultimate goal in dealing with the topic at hand is not just correcting the “feelings,” but to learn contentment in all circumstances.
Learning contentment is best learned when choosing to live generously either at, or below your financial means.
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