With rising interest rates and a looming economic recession, there is no shortage of books warning us of a coming crisis. But what is interesting is how often this threat has been written about over the last 100 years. Used bookstores and thrift stores are graveyards for these doomsday books whose warnings faded as quickly as time. It is obvious that when it comes to the topic of personal finance, fear sells. Unfortunately, fear can lead us to make poor financial decisions. Jesus knew that and gave us a parable to illustrate the point.
We know the parable of the talents. The owner was set to go on a journey and called his servants to entrust his money to them while he was gone. He gave each servant five, two, and one talent, respectively. Focusing on the servant’s behavior with one talent, he "went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money." (Matthew 25:18). This servant was convinced the others would squander their larger portions and would surely feel the wrath of the owner. In his wisdom, he decided to protect the one talent he had been entrusted with. But when the owner returned, the servant knew he managed the money poorly. The servant confessed that his actions were driven by three familiar words, "I was afraid." (Matthew 25:25).
God has entrusted everything you own to your care and management. Will you manage these resources out of fear, or will you invest what God has given you for His glory and the advancement of His Kingdom? Fear manifests itself in several ways in our lives and can be destructive to our finances. Let's look at some common fears and what God says about them.
1. Fear of failure.
We all hate making mistakes. Failure stings and the feelings we have when we fail can last a lifetime. Unfortunately, a fear of failing can lead to inaction. Maybe you need to take that first step to start budgeting or getting out of debt, but past failed attempts mean you’ve given up hope. Certainly, the unfaithful servant felt this fear. He was afraid of losing the one talent he had been given. Paul wrote to Timothy, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (II Timothy 1:7). Take the next step. Don't let the fear of failure stop you from establishing financial goals and making progress.
2. Fear of man.
Is the fear of others impacting your finances? Maybe you’re struggling to say “no” to a family member, or you are spending money on material items intended to impress others. The Bible teaches us that we should fear God, not man. Paul writes in Galatians, "For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10) Proverbs contrasts our fear of man with trusting in God. (Proverbs 29:25). "The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe". (Proverbs 29:25) Rather than conceding to this fear, we should turn our hearts toward God and trust Him for His faithful provision.
3. Fear of external circumstances.
Our world has no lack of anxiety-triggering events: earthquakes, fires, the threat of war, and even pandemics. We are reminded daily of the threats this world presents. When it comes to our personal finances, we can allow this fear to influence how we manage our money. We hoard food and material possessions, avoid saving for the future, and miss out on the long-term returns of investing. Our behavior is focused on the short term. But Jesus exhorts us to not live in fear. "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.” (Matthew 6:25) If the threat of external circumstances keeps you up at night, maybe it's time to discuss those fears with a pastor or counselor.
When it comes to our personal finances, we can allow this fear to influence how we manage our money.
4. Fear of asking for help.
It’s worth calling out the fear of asking for help when it comes to your personal finances. For many of us, we wait too long to seek help. We try to tackle problems on our own because we are afraid of what others might think of us but end up worse than when we started. Maybe you think you’re the only one – but you’re not. What if the servant managing the single talent had sought the wisdom of his master at the beginning of the story? The servant’s story would be quite different. Surely, he would have at least invested the money and offered his owner the interest. How could your money story change with help?
Be wise and live by faith
With as many financial doomsday books written, clearly, we listen and act when we're afraid. As good stewards, we need to be aware and mindful of what is happening around us. But we would recommend grounding yourself and your emotions with someone who can help you navigate your finances when the skies look gloomy. Not a friend that feeds your fears, but someone who has been professionally trained. Someone that will help you manage your finances out of a faith mindset, rather than fear. Jesus' words were not just written for His disciple's ears. His words transcend time and economic conditions and can speak directly into our situation. Don't be afraid. Walk in faith and be found a good and faithful steward.