I was recently reading an article by Dr. Jim Denison about the volatility of the stock market, especially as it has fluctuated this spring. January started at 25,369.13; by the end of January it reached a high of 26,149.39 and a few days into February market lost 3,000 points.
Do these wild fluctuations bother you? Do you have trouble sleeping at night when you think about the stock market?
If you are worried about losing or gaining money on a daily, weekly or monthly basis . . . I would ask you — where is your focus? Are you focused on your finances or are you at peace with whatever comes your way knowing God will provide for you in all situations?
In Matthew 6:31-33 Jesus advises, “Do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.”
Our culture is focused on wealth and the prestige that money and beautiful materials goods bring to us as individuals. We think our next purchase will elevate our personal esteem in the eyes of the people around us. We look to material goods to determine our level of happiness.
Remember the Parable of the Rich Young Man? Jesus told him to sell everything he owned, and give his money to the poor, then he could follow Jesus. This rich young man went away sad because his money and material possessions provided him with a sense of self-worth and he was unwilling to give them up.
Jesus does not deny the reality of human needs (see Matthew 6:32), but forbids making them the object of anxious care and, in effect, becoming their slave. Jesus is saying that, yes, we need to have our material needs met, but if we are only focused on our material needs and not on Him, we are focused on the wrong thing.
In Matthew 6:24 Jesus tells us, “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Our job is to remember who our master is—it is God. Money should be our servant! It should be a tool in our bag.
Let’s take a look at how you can establish a plan for your finances based on the principals that God has shown us in the Scriptures.
The first question is where do you want to end up? You have to start with the end in mind, as it says in the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. We don’t start a trip without first figuring out where we are going and plugging the destination into our GPS. Without a defined destination, we can go anywhere, even in circles, and we will have accomplished our goal.
Creating a plan for your finances should be done in just the same way. Go to the Compass Catholic website, and under the resources link you’ll find “The Money Map.” The Money Map has seven destinations and each destination has several steps. Go the earliest destination that is incomplete and complete the steps in order under each destination until you reach the end—True Financial Freedom.
If you have a plan, you know how much you need to save in order to achieve financial freedom and you have an estimated completion date. That plan helps you put the market fluctuations into perspective. It helps you detach form this world and focus on the next.
The failure to view our present lives through the lens of eternity is one of the biggest hindrances to seeing our lives and our finances in their true light. Yet the Church teaches that the reality of our eternal future should determine the character of our present lives and the use of our time, talent and treasure.
We are aliens, strangers, and pilgrims on earth. Peter wrote, “I urge you as strangers and sojourners to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
We are only pilgrims here on earth. Pilgrims are unattached. They are aware that that excessive accumulation of things can be a distraction. Material things are valuable to pilgrims, but only as they facilitate their journey. We must never become too much at home in this world, or we will become ineffective in serving the cause of the kingdom we are here to represent.
Things can entrench us in the present world, acting as chains around our legs that keep us from moving in response to God. When our eyes are too focused on the visible, they will be drawn away from the invisible. “For we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever” (2 Corinthians 4:18, GNT).
Pilgrims of faith look to the next world. They see earthly possessions as tools which are only useful for kingdom purposes.
Leo Trese, author of The Faith Explained, says it this way, ”Wiser people know that worldly well-being is a deceptive source of happiness . . . [they] have discovered that there is no happiness so deep and so abiding as that which grows out of a living faith in God, and an active, fruitful love for God.”
Don’t let the stock market determine your happiness. Look to God instead.