I’ve spent the past 20 years working with a unique group of people. You may be familiar with them. I call them “wealth-creators,” though more recently they have become known as the “one percent,” a name that often comes with negative connotations.
While there are surely many in this category who have earned the media’s derision, there’s a quiet, almost invisible movement that is emerging among those entrusted with much—people who love God, are active in the church, and desire to be good stewards of their time, talent and treasure. Actually, the most rewarding aspect of my work is seeing wealth-creators shift from maximizing personal net-worth to maximizing Kingdom impact. When this shift happens, all of the innate creativity, courage and energy of the “one percent” is unleashed for the good of others.
I have seen in the lives of many one-percenters that when the power of money is broken in someone’s life, the world is changed for the better.
Money’s power lies in its ability to deceive. Jesus cautions us in Mark 4:19 that the deceitfulness of wealth could choke the word of God, causing our lives to be unfruitful. Money deceives in a myriad of ways. It convinces us that we are in control and gives us a false sense of security.
And this isn’t only true for the wealthy one percent. No, at every age and economic level, we buy into the “culture of more” and pursue an ever-expanding lifestyle, thinking that things or experiences will satisfy us in ways that only Jesus truly can.
Tragically, money can tempt us to waste our lives in a lesser pursuit than the abundant life God invites us to. But I have seen many who have broken the power of money by embracing what the Apostle Paul calls the “life that is truly life.”
Here are three ways you can begin pursuing Paul’s call and stop stressing so much about money—whether you’re the top one percent, the bottom or anywhere in between.
1. Trust what God’s Word says about money, reject the rest.
That may sound simplistic, but much of money’s grip on our hearts is tied to the cultural messages around us. The Bible shines light and brings freedom; it’s our biggest tool against letting our world shape how we perceive money. It should be seen as a resource to provide for our families and advance the kingdom of God.
When this purpose is misplaced or pursued in anxious striving, money can cause problems in one’s faith and in other areas of life.
King Soloman, in Ecclesiastes 5:10, writes, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.” Then in Matthew 6:24, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
These are pretty straightforward. Money has a purpose in your life and it’s not as your master or provider.
2. Give generously.
Generosity has the power to break the grip money has on us. It brings us joy and redirecting our affections. Investing our time, talents and treasures into God’s kingdom makes us more excited about God’s Kingdom. Put simply, when we give our love for God and others expands. Maybe that is why these words of Jesus resonate so deeply with the generous one percenters. Remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
I have seen this message validated over and over again in the lives of generous Christians. It is the “unexpected delight” that always results when someone decides to live generously, whether sharing their money, their time or their talents.
I recently heard a guy who built a successful construction company share how he used to view giving legalistically. “I always gave my 10 percent to the church, sort of like checking off a list of things to do,” he explained. “I can’t say I got all that excited about it. But once I grasped the concept of generosity, giving became fun. My wife told me she had never seen me write a check before with a smile on my face.”
He’s experiencing that transition I describe as moving from “I ought to give” to “I get to give.”
Contrary to the message that religion—specifically Christianity—takes all the fun out of life, Jesus offers a life that is not dependent upon wealth for happiness or pleasure. The truly abundant life that comes from obeying God has little to do with more stuff and everything to do with more freedom, peace, joy, adventure and purpose.
3. Invest in the Kingdom.
I have been profoundly influenced by the writing of Randy Alcorn. He advises, “If you want a heart for something, invest in it.” And to illustrate he says that if you invest in Google, you become more interested in news about Google. You follow it more closely. There are lots of other tech companies, but you’re concerned about Google because you’ve invested in it.
Similarly, if you invest in the Kingdom of God, your heart grows for the things of the Kingdom. Giving generously leads to increased spiritual growth and vitality. This may be why the Bible has more to say about money than prayer. Conventional wisdom suggests that if you want a closer relationship with God and a stronger, more dynamic faith, you need to spend more time in prayer. I won’t dispute that. But I will say that generosity seems to also deepen our relationship with Christ.
One of my friends is fond of saying everyone needs Jesus and a job. He has built a profitable multi-million dollar business that employs nearly 1,000 people. Rather than seeing all of the profits as theirs to consume, he and his wife have fixed their standard of living and give all of the significant profits, above their modest lifestyle, away for building God’s Kingdom. Their lives are an amazing illustration of living life on purpose while using God’s resources for the sake of others.
When money’s grip on our heart is released, we are free to make an incredible impact and experience more joy and purpose than the pursuit of wealth ever delivered.