THE ULTIMATE REASON FOR "THE SUMMER OF FREE"
"The Summer Of Free" is about more than just getting stuff for free. My hope is that it can be a tool to help you and me view and make use of our money in ways that better serve God's purposes.
In my own experience, I can "geek out" about a new game or hobby so much that I end up spending more money than I had originally planned to. If I don't break that pattern quickly, I can find the money allotted for entertainment "in the red", forcing other categories, like savings, groceries, or any number of other important things to pick up the slack.
Over time, a pattern like this will put a crunch on my finances as a whole. As a result, when an opportunity shows up to give to a ministry endeavor or help a friend or family member out financially, the cost to do so seems higher than it otherwise would, making the decision to be generous more difficult.
The Bible has a lot to say about finances. Howard Dayton, author of "Your Money Counts", says that "the Bible offers 500 verses on prayer, fewer than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2,350 verses on money and possessions."
This is probably because God knows that our money is where the rubber hits the road for our faith. (Can God REALLY give me a fulfilled life even if I don't spend money on myself the way I usually do?)
I've collected a number of verses related to finances and possessions. Hopefully taking a brief look at what God says about finances will remind us of how God wants us to see our money and our hobbies. It's at that point that "The Summer Of Free" can become a great tool for keeping our spending down as we get our finances back under control and ready for God to use more effectively for his eternal purposes.
THE BIBLE AND MONEY
Luke 16:10-11(ESV)- One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?
God has incredible rewards waiting for those who follow Jesus in this life. But those rewards in eternity will reflect how well we manage what God has given us now. (See also Matthew 25:14-30)
Matthew 6:24-34(ESV)- No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. 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. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and 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 added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Sometimes it can feel like our lives will just plain suck if we don't get that new game, see that new movie or read that new book as soon as it comes out. Our passions can become so wrapped up in our geek hobbies that when we aren't able to enjoy them when we want to it can have a greatly negative effect on our moods. (I'm ashamed to admit that's true of ME, anyway. Pretty silly when you think about it.)
But Jesus wants us to have a better perspective on our possessions and the things we invest in. He reminds us that God is good and will provide us with the fulfillment we're always searching for if we trust in and follow him.
Psalm 24:1(ESV)- The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,
Colossians 1:15-17(ESV)- He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
The truth is that EVERYTHING belongs to God. Not just 10% of our income. Everything we have should be dedicated to serving and celebrating the God who made it all.
Luke 14:33(ESV)- So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
Luke 22:35(ESV)- And he said to them, "When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?" They said, "Nothing." He said to them, "But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors.' For what is written about me has its fulfillment."
Although it may seem that verses like Luke 14:33 command believers to live in poverty, this interpretation isn't consistent with other verses like 22:35. I believe the scriptural principle consistent with both types of verses is that we not cling to our possessions or our time. We should not feel entitled to anything, ever. It is all a gift from God. The resources we have should be constantly viewed in a context of either serving or celebrating God. Sometimes a lack of possessions will serve this purpose. Sometimes having possessions will serve this purpose.
Either way we should be willing, at a moment's notice, to set aside our property and sense of entitlement in favor of other people, or service to God. We should not be a drain on the resources of others or cripple our ability to use our possessions and finances in service of others.
THE BIBLE AND DEBT
Debt is one way that our money's potential for good can be crippled, and so scripture commands us not to be in debt.
Romans 13:8(ESV)- Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
Proverbs 22:7(ESV)- The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
1 Corinthians 7:23(ESV)- You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.
We owe everything to God and should be able to use all that we have in service to him. But if our resources are tied up in debt, they are unable to be committed to serving God or helping others.
Debt is such a huge part of our economy in the United States. It's hard to imagine life without those monthly car and mortgage payments. (Although purchasing a house or property could be argued to be an investment, rather than debt.) But it is possible!
I'm horrible with money. That's why my wife does all the number crunching for the family budget and for Spirit Blade Productions, even though we still discuss together where our money is being used and why. Without her, I'd be in a mess of debt, I'm sure of it. But because of her, I've seen the tangible blessings that come about from handling money in a godly way.
By handling our money responsibly, we've been able to avoid any credit card debt (while reaping tons of the free benefits that many credit card companies offer!) and leverage our resources in such a way as to be able to purchase our next car (which we're badly in need of thanks to my junker) without any financing! We've also been able to give and lend money to family and friends in need and support ministry endeavors in ways I NEVER would have thought possible when I was younger.
I don't share any of that to boast. (Like I said, I would be a financial wreck without my wife.) Rather I hope it's a source of encouragement to anyone who might feel overwhelmed by debt or other financial issues. Managing money can be a blessing that we can enjoy and pour back to God, rather than a stressful subject at the dinner table.
In the end, the biggest issue is probably "contentment". We should each ask ourselves, "Am I counting on a new game, movie, car, software, hardware, book or other cool nerdy collectible to fulfill my sense of contentment?" If so, we will ALWAYS find ourselves in debt as we chase after the wind.
Philippians 4:11-13(ESV)- Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
We often look at verse 13 and emphasize the "all things" part, as though the main point here is that God can empower us to do anything and everything. And while he can, I suspect the emphasis would be better placed on "through him". The secret of Paul's contetnment, regardless of his circumstances, was to do everything in life WITH JESUS. Trusting in his strength, his promises for our fulfillment, and his wisdom in how we should approach the various difficulties or pleasures of life.
That's a life-long journey involving a growing prayer life and understanding of the Bible, which together allow Christ to be "present" in our minds, moment by moment.
We can see a little progress happening week to week or month to month. But as we're growing in our ability to be content and to control our spending, we still may need some geeky "fixes" now and then that won't drain our resources. And that's where I hope "The Summer Of Free" will be a source of both fun and help to you and me.