Abundance is the FIRST Step

The Holiness Project

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV).

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV).

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33 NIV).

Abundance is the FIRST Step – Day 44

I often watch videos on YouTube on wealth and finance and the other day I came across one that was called The 5 Levels of Wealth. Apparently it was being done by a couple of guys who are fairly well-known in the space and this was sort of an overview of their approach to wealth-building.

I am always a bit torn between two perspectives when it comes to wealth in the Christian life. On the one hand, the Bible is full of warnings about the dangers of the love of money and focusing on wealth-building to the exclusion of your soul. You know the verses I’m talking about.

On the other hand, the Bible also tells us to be wise and prudent and to use all of our resources to take care of ourselves and help build the kingdom of God. The Word of God calls this approach Stewardship.

With that in mind, I find it helpful to study different perspectives on wealth-building even from those who are not Christians in order to be wise in the stewardship of the resources God has given me but always with a view to building up the Kingdom of God and not just my own kingdom.

These two guys (I won’t mention their names or their brand for obvious reasons) talked about wealth-building as a journey that was “simple but not easy.” It has three main ingredients: Discipline, Money and Time. The discipline is to reduce your consumer-oriented spending to start saving some money so that you could invest and take advantage of the power of compound interest.

In general, it is good advice even though it is more focused on the typical professional with a traditional job than on an entrepreneur building his own business. Still, good stuff over all and helpful so far as it goes. Obviously something in their presentation caught my attention or I would not be writing this post.

Let me go over the 5 Levels of Wealth as they presented it.

The first level is STABILITY and most people never even get to this step one in the process. Apparently over 60% of people in the USA don’t have an extra 1K USD for emergencies. But it is vital that you get here. It is the first step and for many people it is the hardest. It takes DISCIPLINE and FOCUS to get here but there is a lot of great teaching online that can help you with this goal.

Apparently 70 to 75K USD per year is the magic number that pays for all of your needs and gives you stability in your finances. Here you have a balanced budget. You are out of the credit trap with your credit cards being paid off at the end of every month. You have your risks covered (deductibles and insurance coverage). You have a 3 to 6 month emergency fund in place and you are budgeting regularly (which is your diagnostic tool).

They will even give you some practical advice such as the 20/3/8 rule for buying a car (20% down, financing for no more than 3 years and payments not more than 8% of your gross income). They also wisely warn you against buying luxury cars just for appearances sake. They suggest that your monthly savings and investment should be greater than your car payment. All of your housing expenses should be less than 25% of your gross income (so no luxury housing either) and your total debt burden monthly should be less than 35% of your gross income.

Good advice. If you can do it. That’s not so easy. Discipline will be necessary. But good stuff nonetheless.

The second level of wealth is STRATEGY. In general, people have a savings problem. Apparently you should be saving 20 to 25% of your gross income for retirement. You should have clear financial goals. Using the concept of “forced scarcity” (without being Ebenezer Scrooge) will help you stay focused on your financial goals. We have lost the concept of “delayed gratification” in this generation and only a disciplined approach will bring it back.

They also talk about what saving 25% will do for you in terms of compounding interest over your lifetime. Obviously the sooner you start the better it will be and the more options you will have. And just to be clear, they aren’t talking about putting your money in the bank or a fixed deposit. Especially now-a-days. They are talking about investing and learning to invest wisely.

Obviously this is where the “professional in a traditional job” perspective comes from as far as their training is concerned. You can invest your money in stocks, bonds or even crypto but it is still an investment. After all, we are talking about making your money work for you. You have a job that you love and that pays you well. You don’t have time for anything else.

Enter the entrepreneur. He won’t invest in stocks and bonds, or crypto (well maybe crypto) but, rather, his own business ventures. That also has risks and needs some wisdom to create a profit. In the end, though, you will want to do both. Instead of a job that creates savings, you will have a business that (hopefully) creates profits. So, whether we are talking about savings or profits, much of the advice is still quite sound.

Just to be clear. A lot of people never make it to Stability much less start to implement good wealth-building Strategies (whether as a professional or an entrepreneur). This process can take most of your life but, at some point, you will arrive at the third level of wealth. Security.

SECURITY is the third level of wealth and there are no shortcuts to getting there. It takes time to get through the “messy middle of life.” Because you took care of the BIG stuff (financially) in the early days, you can start to spend a little bit more on the SMALL stuff (financially) in your life. An extra latte express is no big deal. A meal at a restaurant with your wife might become a monthly outing. Nothing too big, you understand, but a little bit of breathing room is fine.

Now you are in a position to think about future expenses, a bucket list or getting debt free from your mortgage. You feel less squeezed. You aren’t retired yet but you can start to lessen the financial discipline in favor of a little bit better lifestyle. But within reason.

This leads, over a bit more time, to the next level of wealth which they call FREEDOM (or financial independence). Now you can ask questions such as “Do I want to work anymore or is it time to retire early? What do I really want to do with my time?” This is about doing what you want, when you want and how you want.

You are able to pay for your current and future needs with money rather than with your own effort. Your money and investments are working well for you. You are thinking about Wealth Preservation more than Wealth Building at this point. You are starting to think in terms of your legacy. Charity giving becomes more important.

But be careful. This is a tricky time in your life.

You want to make sure that your financial retirement plan is stress tested and can handle any kind of health or lifestyle emergency that comes your way. In addition, you want to make sure that you are thinking in terms of “retiring to” something rather than just “retiring from” something. Have a plan and be ready for the uncertainties of your transition.

Of course for the first two levels of Stability and Strategy, they have courses and training that you can buy to learn the details of how to get the job done. No problem. All good stuff. Level three (Security) and level four (Freedom) are more of a description than anything else. The only thing to be careful of here is the transition to retirement. To make sure that you are ready for that (while you are still working), they offer one-on-one consulting to help you determine if your retirement plan is truly ready.

But then they talk about the fifth level of wealth – ABUNDANCE.

This is where it gets tricky (and interesting). Here is where their philosophy of life shines through a bit more. They admit that very few people actually make it here to the Abundant life (financially). They admit that it isn’t just about an amount of money or the achievement of a goal. They cite statistics like 20% of people are depressed under normal circumstances but CEO’s (who are wealthy) have a higher number than that at 40%. Statistics show that wealthy countries have more issues with depression and suicide than poorer countries and richer families than poorer families.

If abundance is about happiness, well, money can’t buy you love.

You need to find your WHY. You need to know who you are, what you value and what brings you purpose. If happiness is about fulfillment, meaning and significance where you feel content and satisfied with your life then the focus should be on relationships, giving and legacy. They call this The Abundance Cycle.

Admittedly, they were a bit lost at this point.

The very fact that they acknowledged that this was the fifth level of wealth and the most important one is already amazing. It almost flies in the face of everything else they were talking about. If relationships, giving and legacy is what creates an Abundance life, then why is it the fifth level of wealth and not the first.

This is the question I want to propose.

Abundance is the FIRST step, not the last. It is not something to be achieved (hopefully) at the end of your life after amassing wealth. It is not a mindset that can be achieved with money at all. In fact abundance is not about money at all (which is what they already admitted).

You can have relationships without wealth. You can give without wealth (maybe less but still sacrificially and significantly). You can leave a legacy without wealth. Having more money may give you a bigger impact on the world from a practical point of view but that isn’t what we are talking about here. We aren’t talking about how big or small, how much or how little your legacy will be but rather whether or not you will even have one. Very few people get here, they said. Very few people lead an abundant life and perhaps the reason for that is because they think it is about money.

The key concept here is this. The amount of money you give will certainly affect others but it is the act of giving that affects you. How you give (with gratitude) and what you support (reflecting your values) are what matter to you. You don’t need wealth for that.

Abundance is the first step. Even if you aren’t a Christian, that is true. Start with abundance and wealth management becomes stewardship with a purpose. It isn’t about how much you can give away (in absolute terms) but how much (and how sacrificially) you can support the causes you believe in with the wealth you have today.

Be wise with your money, certainly, but also create an abundance mentality from the start so that you don’t fall into the trap of wealth-building for your own kingdom, your own security, your own freedom but for the kingdom of God. Our security is in God. Our freedom is in Christ. How wonderful it would be to spend every penny, every moment, every talent and skill I possess to please God by joining Christ in his great rescue operation in this world. That is true wealth. That is my significance and legacy.

I have often commented that most people in the church would rather pay a lot of money in interest to big banks and financial institutions on their credit card debt than learn some financial discipline, some strategic wisdom in managing their resources so that they can go beyond paying a tithe to the church (if they even do that) and start to seriously build spiritual relationships through the giving of their money, time and talents so that they can leave a legacy of kingdom building that has eternal value.

That difference in mentality is everything. It starts with Abundance but leads to Stewardship because our highest goal and greatest legacy isn’t about ourselves but about the kingdom of God.

The Desert Warrior

Lord, teach me to view money in the right way. It is not my master but a tool for the building of your kingdom. Do not allow me to get too attached to the power of money but rather to the power of a relationship with you. Teach me to have a grateful heart that loves to give and to leave a legacy, a testimony to my family and friends, to my children and church that your kingdom is worth every effort, every sacrifice and every penny that I can spend.

I know that I am responsible to take care of myself and my family as well (with reasonable expenditures) since we are also part of the kingdom of God and what we do with our home and our lives is also a part of our life ministry. Thank you for this stewardship perspective on wealth and help me to be wise with the resources you have given me. In your name I pray. Amen.