A balanced approach to our finances may not be what we need.
We hear it all the time; we need a balanced approach to this, or, we need balance in the way we do that, or, we need a balanced life. Have you ever really thought about what that means and how using the term balance might influence your decision making? Do you ever feel that you need more balance in a particular area of life?
I’ve struggled with the idea of balance for many years. Some think I’m knit-picking or overly analytical. And some respond when I challenge their use of the term by saying, “You know what I mean.” If then I insist, “What do you mean by balance?”, I usually get an answer that shows a lack of direction.
It’s often easier to adopt the concept of “balance” rather than take on the more difficult and better work of prayerful consideration to determine what’s right. Using a balanced approach can give us permission to do things we shouldn’t do. Through “balance” we can treat questionable priorities as if they are on par with the most critical priorities.
In political circles, this idea is found in the term compromise. I’ve often heard, it’s all about compromise, or, the problem is, they failed to compromise on the key issues. Just think what would happen if we compromised on everything. That would, and is, bringing tragic results.
A balanced approach can give us permission to do almost anything as long as it’s not “excessive”.
Jesus’ approach to balance
Jesus didn’t lead a very balanced life. He lived with a singular, overarching purpose that drove everything he did. He was here to focus on the will of his father (John 6:38). And this purpose was so central to his existence that he said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” (John 4:34). He lived such that everything pointed to God’s purpose.
And Jesus’ instruction for our focus is very much aligned with his, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16) And his own objective was to glorify God in everything he did – even the most mundane things. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
A misunderstanding about full commitment
Living a focused life does not mean we become dull or joyless or unloving. And it does not mean we can’t get away for downtime. It does, however, mean that, like Paul, we do everything for the glory of God. As he told Timothy, “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2 Timothy 2:4)
For some, this can be mind-blowing. Should I really be including God in everything I do? Absolutely! The alternative is to live two different lives (see the article, Spiritual or Secular). One life is about Jesus, and the other life is about self.
Have you ever heard the saying; He’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good? It may be that we think of this when we think of a devout and focused life. The reality should be that the more heavenly minded we are, the more earthly good we’ll be. A proper vision of what it means to be a disciple and to treasure Jesus above anything else should create someone who loves others the way Jesus does, cherishes family, relates to his or her spouse rightly, enjoys God’s gifts without idolatry, works with the right attitude, has great joy, etc. A life focused on the glory of God in everything should be a beautiful testimony of God’s active, saving work.
A balanced financial life?
There are times when I want to adopt the balanced approach to finances. This most often happens when I’m trying to justify financial decisions that don’t glorify God. There’s a never-ending list of things that compete for my attention and loyalty. And I assume we all have areas of susceptibility to this. Entertainment, eating out, car purchases, clothing, house size, giving (or lack thereof) retirement savings, etc. can pull at us.
Instead of just adopting a balanced approach, or an all-things-in-moderation approach when we’re faced with competing financial priorities, please consider earnest, consistent prayer. God-honoring lives don’t develop when we take the easy and faithless path. When we lose our focus, we will make decisions that don’t move toward God’s purpose for us.