I was really surprised to discover that the Bible encourages every family, every father, every household, to become financially independent, and I think about this a lot, in regards to this latest crisis. I know a lot of us are feeling really vulnerable right now, and this isn’t to say that it’s wrong not to be. Most people, most of us are struggling with debt. We’ve got mortgages. A lot of unemployment is erupting. We’re living in a very challenging time right now, economically, but one of the things that I think is important to understand, is that there’s this verse in first Thessalonians four I want to read to you guys.
I love the word that Paul uses. He really says, “There’s a goal that every household should have,” and I think there’s something happening right now in this moment, that’s going to make this goal come alive for a lot of you guys, even if you’re really struggling with finances, and Paul says in first Thessalonians four, he says, “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before, then the people who are not believers will respect the way you live and you will not need to depend on others.” We live in a hyper interdependent age, where we are one toilet paper shelf away from being without some really important stuff. So, people feel really vulnerable now. A lot of this is coming from this assumption of stability we talked about during the last podcast, but I think that we really need to understand that the Bible could have different positions on this. The Bible could say, “Be even more interdependent.” As a household, if the world is starving, you should be starving, but that’s not what Paul says, and I wrestled with this.
He actually says, very specifically, “Make it your goal,” and then he lists out these things, “To live this quiet life, minding your own business, working with your hands, so that you will gain the respect of others.” And then he says this thing at the end, that really surprises me. “And you will not need to depend on others.” A life where you are constantly in dependence as a household on others, and he’s really talking here, the context here is his business is working. It’s financial. When you’re hyper dependent on others, you’re one week away from running out of money or food or something like that, then it’s difficult for you to, Paul says here, “To gain the respect of outsiders.” It’s hard to give, when you are constantly at risk of ruin yourselves.
This is really a household admonition. He’s saying here, again, it’s really important to understand, the context here isn’t that he’s saying, “You must be financially independent.” That’s not what he’s saying. He’s saying, “Make it your goal.” When I read this, I remember reading this about 15 years ago, as a younger father, and this was really helpful to me. We were nowhere near financially independent or food independent or independent in any way. We were hyper dependent, as a family, but I read this and I decided to take it seriously. We went through a really tough financial season, and through that time, I decided one of the changes coming out of that really bad financial season for our family was I’m going to make it my goal to become more financially independent as a family. I used to think that was an unspiritual goal. First Thessalonians four really corrected my thinking there.
It’s been a 15 year process, of us being thoughtful about how to become a little… We just take a step or two every year towards more independence. That might be building up an emergency fund. That might be figuring out how to grow some of your own food. That might mean getting a little bit off the grid, when we put solar panels up. I just take a little step every year and I just make it a goal of our family. In 15, 20, 30 years, let’s just keep creeping in this direction. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. We want to be a generous family. We don’t want to be a family that’s stingy, and we don’t want to be a family that is disrespected.
Paul is saying the way you avoid those things is you make this your goal. I think it’s an advanced goal, and I would say the goal for a lot of you guys is in your forties, fifties, sixties, you want to be getting pretty close to this level of independence. Don’t freak out if you’re in your twenties and thirties and you’re not there. That’s understandable. But it also requires some goal directed action, to get there in your forties, fifties, and sixties. So, yeah, Jeff, what does that stir up for you?
Yeah, no, I totally agree. I think it’s true on all levels. There’s clearly the world’s motivation, that’s very similar to something like that, of doomsday preppers, so that we can survive, but I think it’s similar scripturally, but it’s actually for leadership. It’s actually so that you can give your life away. Paul wants to build a robust church contextually. He wants the Thessalonica to be healthy and flourishing. Now, the way to do that, is to not have hundreds of people that are dependent on other people, to have hundreds of people who are independent and can serve one and then give their life as a [inaudible 00:04:57], right? Like Jesus did. Give their life over, pour it out. That’s the goal. So, I think so many times we start in these conversations, immediately people say, “That’s selfish. That’s hoarding. That’s whatever.” It’s actually the opposite. It’s doing it, so that you can be in a position of leadership when people need you. Right? Because when crisis hits, the people who are most dependent are the people that get hit the hardest. That’s just true. And we all see that.
I think that’s the first thing is understand it’s to put yourself in a position of leadership. Two, it’s not talking about spiritual. It’s not talking about all the verses on dependency with vulnerability, community and sharing resources, even in that regard too. It’s not talking about that. It’s talking about, “Okay, let’s talk about healthy, mature leadership.” This is what it looks like to be dependent. That’s different than healthy, mature Christian and that means it’s depend on one another, in regards to sharing the faith and burdens and all that. That’s two separate tracks. I would say that. Understand too, that we live in a modernized world, that has made enormous trade off for our blessing, but at the expense of our dependency. The fact that 90 something percent of the country was farmers 200 years ago, and now it’s less than 1%. There’s a blessing to that, the fact that not all of us are spending all of our time doing the exact same thing. Why not just have one guy do it? Or actually one corporation do it. Yet, what happens if we need food? Well, we don’t know what to do.
So, there’s enormous trade off. Same with electricity. We are dependent upon a grid and a warehouse and a county and a state and a federal system to give us electricity, when hundreds of years ago, they built their own fire. You know what I mean? And obviously fire isn’t the only thing you need, but there’s levels there of just you have to be able to meet your basic needs, and like Jeremy said, it’s just a slow, slow growth. I’ve started to get into spear fishing. I’ve done it years ago, but started to get into it more now, and it’s taken on total different layers the last month, because I’m like, “Oh, this gives me dinner. I don’t need to go to the grocery store.” Not just for fun anymore. I think all that stuff combined, it’s a slow creep. A lot of us slow creep towards dependency, and all we’re saying is slow creep towards independence, and over 20, 30 years it’ll make a big difference.
Yeah, and I love what you said, Jeff, about in the body of Christ, we are supposed to be interdependent, but as a household, we should be financially independent. That’s the difference.
That’s right, and if you’re not, by the way, you do need help from others in the body, you should say so. Boast in your weakness. Get out there and say, “Guys, I’m struggling with paying this bill.” Don’t be ashamed of that in these early seasons, when you’re trying to raise a family.
And then a household whose independent can help you.
That’s right. That’s right. Exactly. An upstream family, that’s really been working towards financial independence, should figure out ways to help you out, so that’s the way we work, but it’s not okay if all of us are on the dependent trajectory. That’s when nobody’s solid enough to lift up those who are sinking. If you’re one of those families who was sinking and needs help, don’t be ashamed of asking for help.