More than 2 million families have attended Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University in the past 20 years. FPU is a great program especially for those who are struggling financially or who have never had the opportunity to learn basic Biblical financial principles.
If you follow the plan, eventually you will find yourself debt free with an emergency fund stored away with 3 to 6 months of expenses. You’ll be making great progress on saving for retirement and your children’s college. You will even be well on your way to having your home paid off. For many who have followed the baby steps to reach this point the logical question is now what.
The Legacy Journey class was released a couple years ago and was the long awaited follow-up to FPU. The Legacy Journey: A Radical View of Biblical Wealth and Generosity is the book companion to the class.
This book is intended to help you understand what comes next when you have achieved some level of financial success.
A Biblical view of wealth
Our society often sends mixed messages when it comes to wealth.
On the one hand there are those who believe that money is inherently evil. That the only way to truly build wealth is to do so by taking advantage of others or at best that acquiring wealth is a dangerous temptation and the only spiritual response is to give away all but the bare minimum you need to survive.
On the other hand are those who teach the prosperity gospel. God loves you and wants you to be fabulously wealthy. And the corollary to that is often if you aren’t doing well then clearly you just don’t have enough faith.
The problem is neither of these are biblical understandings of wealth.
The first is motivated by a spirit of poverty. The problem is who is to decide what is too much. The answer most often is anyone who has a bit more than I do. There was a movement called the one percenters a couple years ago who held protest for the perceived inequalities in our financial system and the disparity between the top 1% of wage earners and the other 99%. What was often lost in those discussions was an understanding that on a global basis almost all of us in America are blessed beyond measure. If your annual household income is more than $34,000 a year, you are in the top 1% on a global basis. So the truth is most of us are already rich by the world’s standards, but when we have a poverty mentality it is very easy to stand in judgement of those who make just a little more than we do.
But the prosperity gospel mentality is dangerous as well. The problem is this easily leads to a spirit of pride. It is very easy to forget that the blessings I have received come from God and soon I begin to believe that it is due to my skills and efforts that I am successful. Deuteronomy 8:17-18 tells us:
You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
Accepting the true owner
The proper understanding of wealth is guided by the understanding that all that we have, every skill we possess, all the wealth we can accumulate. All of it. Everything. It all belongs to God. We are simply managers of the resources that he has given us.
When that is understood it changes everything about how we handle money. But the truth is this is hard. While we may intellectually understand that God owns it all, many times our actions betray the fact that we still struggle with believing this. When we really come to accept that we are simply managers of the blessings God has given us then the way we handle that wealth whether little or great will be changed and the attitude with which we approach our wealth will not be one of pride or judgement. It will be an attitude of gratitude.
A changing focus
Once we have that stewardship mentality it impacts many areas of our lives. We are faced with the question of what kind of legacy do we want to leave.
When we are struggling to make ends meet our focus may rarely extend beyond how we will put food on the table and keep the lights turned on. That’s not necessarily wrong as the Bible does tell us to first take care of our own family. (1 Timothy 5:8)
Then as we start to get ourselves out of debt and providing basic needs becomes less of a concern, our focus starts to turn to the future and those around us. We begin to save to make sure emergencies don’t derail us and that we will be able to make it financially through our retirement years. We are able to provide for our families and make sure their needs are taken care of as well.
But as you continue to do smart things with your money, eventually you will reach a point where your needs and the needs of those close to you are met. It is at this time that we can lift our eyes to those around us that are in need. We start to understand that we can use the blessings of God to change our world.
What you leave behind
Our legacy is also reflected in what we will leave behind when we leave this world.
Billionaire Warren Buffet has pledged to give away much of his fortune. He has been quoted as saying that he intends to leave his children enough to provide for them but not enough to ruin their lives. Bill Gates has formed a foundation to give billions of his fortune to various charitable causes.
We respect men like this for their generosity and willingness to try to make the world a better place. Buffets words ring true as we have all seen instances where inherited wealth has led to entitlement and excess that has ruined many children and grandchildren’s lives.
But does it have to be that way? What if we were to teach our children God’s ways of handling money? What if we were to instill in them the understanding that it all belongs to God and we are simply managers of the blessings He has provided? What if we helped them understand that wealth is a responsibility?
Creating a generational legacy
While I in no way would criticize Buffet or Gates for their philanthropy, what if our children learned true Biblical stewardship principles so that they could be safely entrusted with an inheritance? Proverbs 13:22a says:
A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children
Consider this. Suppose you were to simply save $100 a month from age 25 to age 65. If the money were invested well you would easily have more than a half a million dollars that you might be able to pass on to your children.
Now let’s say they understand that this wealth is a responsibility from God and they continued to manage it well. In another 40 years that half a million might turn into more than 10 million dollars!
Let’s take it one more generation. If our grand kids followed this same pattern that simple hundred dollar a month investment would grow to more than 175 million dollars by the time they reached their retirement age.
How much good could be done in the name of Christ in just a couple generations by a family that was faithful in being good stewards of God’s blessings? How many children would be fed? How many villages could have clean water? How many diseases might be totally eradicated? How many people would come to know Christ as the body of Christ was equipped to love them through their physical needs?
And that would be through the efforts of just one family! What if believers across the world were to grasp these principles. In just a couple generations our world could be a very different place.
Our real legacy
There is an old story often used by motivational speakers. They talk about the gravestone that will someday sit at the head of your grave. There will be two numbers on that gravestone. Your birth date and the date of your death. But in between those numbers is a dash. That dash represents your life. While you don’t get to choose what numbers will go on your grave marker, you do get to decide what that dash will represent. And then they ask, “What will you do with your dash?”
While The Legacy Journey is certainly about how you will spend your dash, in a larger sense your real legacy is the dash of your children and your grand children and each generation that comes after.
There are several books that come to mind that have significantly shaped my thinking about money. One of those books is The Legacy Journey. I encourage you to check it out.