It would be funnier if it weren’t so sad.
Jeff Bezos, one of the richest men in the world, recently commissioned the construction of a four hundred eighty-five million dollar yacht ($485,000,000 for those keeping track of zeroes). The 417-foot yacht is so gargantuan, it can’t reach the sea from its port in Alblasserdam, Netherlands because it can’t fit under the Rotterdam Bridge.
Jeff Bezos’ boat is too big for its bridges!
It appears that Jeff Bezos is going to buy his way out of trouble. He’ll pay hundreds of millions of dollars to deconstruct and reconstruct a century old bridge and he’ll be able to get his expensive toy into the open water. This near-miss is a poignant metaphor for life and money.
I talk to people every day who have goals. They want to retire at a certain age, build a nest egg to a certain number, obtain a certain income level. For all the clarity they seem to have around their goals and ambitions, one question stops them in their tracks.
The Cost of Gaining the World
It is easy to latch on to goals and programs. Dave Ramsey’s popularity doesn’t come from the wisdom of his advice but it’s simplicity. A one-size-fits-all approach that judges whether you are right, “Is there money in the envelope?” or are wrong, “We spent a few dollars outside budget.”
But if we “live like no one else, so later we can live like no one else.” We may find that once we’ve built the life that we want, it’s no longer there for us to live.
There is a cost to every financial decision we make and every goal we pursue. Some costs are financial. Some are more expensive.
- We can’t both retire early and spend a lot of time with our kids. The excess income and thus work hours required to reach early retirement preclude us from spending gobs of time at home, especially when our career and our kids are young at the same time.
- We can’t both give sacrificially and save aggressively. By definition sacrificial giving means ‘giving something up.’ If our giving is only secondary to our saving it is giving out of abundance, not sacrifice.
- We can’t both work eighty hours a week and have a life rhythm marked by rest and Sabbath. Whether we are in ministry or business, we damage our relationships with our family, God, and ourselves when we work at a pace God didn’t design us for.
Our goals and dreams are castles in the sky sitting on nothing more substantial than a cloud.
We pursue the ideal life to find that the season we designed it for has already passed.
I’ve had clients whom retired and died the next month.
I’ve watched dads work like dogs to provide for their kids only to find out the kids never felt like they had a father.
I’ve witnessed families who taught their kids how to save, but never taught them how to love Jesus.
I know millionaires who can’t possibly spend all their money and have no one to leave it to because they were so occupied building wealth they never took time to build relationships.
The saddest financial outcome in life is dying a millionaire.
Jesus tells the parable of a man who works his whole life in order to put his feet up and make merry. The man says “I’ve worked hard, I’m going to build barns to store everything in and relax.” Jesus calls him a fool (Luke 12:13-21).
Yet our collective definition of “stewardship” is to do exactly what this man did. Work hard, save it all and coast. Then, maybe then, you’ll have time to volunteer, time to go fishing with your kids, time to travel. If you can just get “there”. The punch line is “there” never comes. Even if it does the life you thought you wanted to live no longer exists.
Once you build that massive yacht in your mind will you even be able to pass under the bridge?
How to Live Your Values Now
There is a better way.
But it’s not a way of rules and programs. It’s a way of life and life abundantly. It’s a blowing in the wind with the word of the Spirit. It’s staying on mission.
The Bible says if we live by the Spirit we should keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25)
Not too fast, not too slow. Digging into the work that is in front of us, but letting tomorrow worry about itself. It’s being intentional about defining “enough” and actually stopping when we get there.
There is no substitute for a real and active relationship with Jesus Christ. There is no financial plan better than the one the Holy Spirit reveals to you.
Here’s some questions you might ask yourself or your family to help notice if you are building a boat you’ll never get into sea:
- What matters most to us? Is it raising your kids to love Jesus? Traveling the world? Volunteering in a non-profit? Being part of a community? It can be more than one thing, but once you’ve listed all the “most important” things, rank them.
- What do we want money to do for us? “More” is not an answer, but most Americans think it’s the solution to their anxiety. Perhaps you want to be untethered from the demands of a boss, or you want to invest in your children’s future, perhaps you want money to solve a problem in the world that most upsets you. When we change the question from “how much” to “what” it forces us to articulate values. When we do, we find we can live our values on much less than we think.
- What does “enough” feel like? If you are waiting for the moment when you “feel” like you have enough, you’ll be waiting forever. If you define “enough” up front, it can give you a finish line. Hold yourself accountable to stopping when you reach it.
- If I trusted God for provision, what would I be doing? Here’s the gut check. If what matters most truly matters, and God did the thing you want money to do for you (i.e. give you significance, safety, freedom). If you realized HE was enough. What would you do? There’s a high probability that’s your mission.
- How can I lean into the most important thing within the confines of my current financial situation? The time to lean into your values is now! Are they really values if you don’t live them? In a less than ideal situation, how can you take small steps of obedience with your imperfections, rather than waiting on life to get “easy enough” to start living your values.
We’re not meant to build lives. We’re meant to live lives. Of course, delayed gratification, responsibility and planning are good things. However, trading obedience and trust in the all-powerful God of the Universe for status, security, and independence in a fading world is a bad trade. The ultimate delayed gratification is working on this earth for heavenly rewards!
God calls us to take steps of obedience now, not once our life is “set up”. He tells us to “Go”, not coast. Jeff Bezos won the game of capitalism. Recently, so far he’s lost his wife and likely his soul in the process. We’d do well to learn the cautionary lessons from the ultra-rich instead of emulate them.
Are you pursuing money or the mission?
Want to teach your kids about money with out training them to be lovers of it? That’s why I built the Mission Minded Money for Kids Curriculum. You can download it for free by inputting your email below.