Specifically in America, we’ve seen the topic of financial independence skyrocket in various segments of our society over the last few decades as things like cryptocurrency, entrepreneurship, the F.I.R.E movement, as well as many others drive our focus daily.
But have we stopped to ask ourselves if financial independence is even biblical? To be honest, most of us haven’t given it a second thought because we believe. God wants us to prosper financially and to yield what He has given us the best of our ability (Matthew 25:14-30, Colossians 3:23-24). However, is this God’s priority when it comes to our money?
When we read the over 2,000 Bible verses that cover the topics of money, stewardship, and possessions, we find a different direction. This isn’t to say that prospering financially and working diligently unto the LORD isn’t honoring to God, but when dealing with money, we must always examine our heart’s motives because heart can convince us of things that are vastly untrue (Jeremiah 17:9).
Financial independence can be a tricky pursuit because if left unchecked, we can end up pursuing something that is the opposite of God’s design for money. Here are some things to consider when asking yourself if your pursuit of financial independence is based in God’s Word or based on the prosperity mindset of 21st century America.
1. Am I placing my faith and trust in my money?
It by no means is bad to save for retirement or to plan for an unavoidable emergency in the future. Scripture is clear that this is wise for us to do (Proverbs 21:20, Genesis 41:53-54, Proverbs 6:6-8). But our intention needs to be clear that this is not the source of our happiness, security, or identity. God cannot be the source of our joy if the world is the source of our satisfaction. When we save for retirement or put money into an emergency fund, we need to fully recognize that God is our sole provider (Deuteronomy 8:17-18, Philippians 4:19, Matthew 6:26). Even if we’re the ones putting money into these accounts’ month after month, it is God who ultimately makes this possible.
The reason money is often warned about in Scripture (1 Timothy 6:17-19, Proverbs 11:28, Proverbs 23:4-5, Matthew 6:19-20, Hebrews 13:5) is because money makes the same promises as God. It promises fulfillment, prosperity, joy, identity, worth, mission, security, as well as many others. We must be careful that we aren’t placing our trust in money. It’s a wonderful tool, but it’s a terrible god.
My friend Art Rainer wrote an amazing article about the Dangers of Financial Health that further dives into this concept as well.
2. Am I trying to get to a place where I don’t work anymore?
This is a prominent mindset in our society. Often when I ask people who subscribes to the idea that they want to retire early, they tell me that they want to quit working, spend time with the kids, and do what they finally want to do. While some of these desires aren’t bad on their own, the idea of quitting work is not a biblical one. God designed us to work. Work is a pre-fall and post-resurrection concept which means that before mankind sinned, God called us to work (Genesis 2:15) and when we enter the New Earth, we will also be working as well.
Now if we’re seeking to get to a place financially to where we can do what we love rather than a job that we’re not particularly passionate about, that’s a different story. I know some people who, upon retirement, will serve with their favorite organization for free. I know some that seek to go overseas and be a missionary because their financial needs are taken care of by their retirement account rather than income producing work. It’s not wrong to want to travel and it’s definitely not wrong to want to spend more time with your kids (or grandkids), but if we’re becoming idle because of it, we’re not honoring God (2 Thessalonians 3:1-18). God’s calling for us to fulfill the Great Commission doesn’t end when we retire.
3. Am I paying off debt so I can have more money for myself?
Especially in Christian finance communities, we find a focus on avoiding and getting out of debt in order so that we may live how we want to. While the Bible does clearly tell us to avoid debt and to pay off the debt we owe (Psalm 37:21, Proverbs 22:7, Proverbs 22:26-27), we don’t pay off debt so we can do whatever we want with our money rather than paying lenders.
The reason that debt needs to be avoided is because it’s a form of slavery and it prevents us from being generous with those around us (Ephesians 4:28). When we tether ourselves to payments for things that we don’t need, we limit our ability to express generosity. When we obligate ourselves to the past, we shut down opportunities for the future. Ultimately, we pay off debt because Scripture tells us to avoid it where at all possible and since God’s design for money is generosity, we as Christians must live differently to ensure that we are ready for every good work and opportunity that God has in store for us.
This isn’t to say that spending money on yourself is a bad thing, but if the purpose of paying off my debt only benefits me and not those around me, we aren’t thinking of our finances the way that God desires us to.
A Higher Calling
So, is financial independence biblical? Well, it depends.
If a certain number of money represents peace and joy in the future, then no it’s unbiblical. Our peace and joy are fulfilled only in Christ. We don’t have to wait until we’re out of debt or in our retirement years to experience that.
If we’re seeking to eliminate work out of our schedule, then no it’s unbiblical. We need to stop seeing work as a means to an end and instead see work as something that God has gifted us. Work isn’t a punishment because of sin, it’s a chance to model God’s image all throughout the world in the spaces that He has placed us in.
If we’re seeking to eliminate our debt burdens so we can fully pursue all our heart’s wants and desires, then no, I’m afraid this pursuit of financial independence is also unbiblical. Yes, it’s true that God desires us to have joy, but more than anything, that joy ought to be rooted in dying to ourselves daily (Luke 9:23, Galatians 2:20) and pursuing holiness. This doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy our money because God gives richly for all of us to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17) because every good and perfect gift comes from Him (James 1:17). But if the priorities of our money revolve around us rather than the advancement of God’s Kingdom, once again, we’ve fallen short of God’s design for our money.
At the end of the day, may we chase after a higher calling for money. Not one that merely focuses on what it can do for us, but rather one that waits in awe to see how God uses it to change the world around us.