Intrigued by the question of which better investment instrument should I capitalize on during my stint as a UP employee, I went so far as to plug numbers on my MS Excel workbook just to find out which fund would give higher returns from salary deductions by the time I was 65. The figures were pretty close to each other(both being a bit shy of 8-digits), so I decided to keep both, and split the amount invested. It took me a long while to realize that this harmless exercise can actually become a fixation, a goal based on assumptions that may seek to derail me from what God wants me to do with my life and finances, in general.
Googling the phrase “setting financial goals”, the general consensus is that financial goals help one take control of his or her life. Goals can either be based on principles with tangible outcomes (being free from debt), short term targets (take an out-of-town vacation by next summer), or long-term targets (retire and live off earnings and accumulated wealth by age 65). Most of the mentioned examples may appear harmless, and being free from debt is even a good principle to live by, so where is the harm?
We didn’t bring anything into the world. We can’t take anything out of it. 8 If we have food and clothing, we will be happy with that.
9 People who want to get rich are tempted. They fall into a trap. They are tripped up by wanting many foolish and harmful things. Those who live like that are dragged down by what they do. They are destroyed and die.
10 Love for money causes all kinds of evil. Some people want to get rich. They have wandered away from the faith. They have wounded themselves with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:7-10)
There is a danger that goals are actually part of an ambition bred from discontentment of our current state. It could either be a case of “keeping up with the Joneses”, “I grew up poor, don’t I have the right to experience these things?” or an “I think I deserve it” line of thinking. There is also the danger of greed – wanting more after hitting the next achievement, just like one would play RPG games to “level up” until they hit the ceiling, and still not be content with level 99.
Then there is also the issue of control:
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “You are missing one thing,” he said. “Go and sell everything you have. Give the money to those who are poor. You will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me.”
22 The man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he was very rich.
23 Jesus looked around. He said to his disciples, “How hard it is for rich people to enter God’s kingdom!”(Mark 10:21-23)
The more you have, the harder it will be to part with your belongings. As a follower of God, control of finances must also be surrendered to Him. This means that any goals we create will have an override button on it. We should be willing to abandon any goal at snap of God’s finger.
On top of control, of course, is the issue of ownership:
Lord, you are great and powerful.
Glory, majesty and beauty belong to you.
Everything in heaven and on earth belongs to you.
Lord, the kingdom belongs to you.
You are honored as the One who rules over all.
12 Wealth and honor come from you.
You are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power.
You can give honor and strength to everyone.
13 Our God, we give you thanks.
We praise your glorious name.
14 “But who am I? And who are my people? Without your help we wouldn’t be able to give this much. Everything comes from you. We’ve given back to you only what comes from you. 15 We are outsiders and strangers in your sight. So were all of our people who lived long ago. Our days on this earth are like a shadow. We don’t have any hope. (1 Chronicles 29:11-15)
Before we even set goals, we must realize that the possessions we have are not ours, but are rather God-given, and can therefore be taken away by God without a moment’s notice. Borrowing the title of a book I once read, we are”managers, not owners”. Thus, part of our role must be to have a listening ear to what God wants to do with what he has bestowed us with, whether it be finances, time, or other tangible possessions.
Perhaps these principles sound too abstract, so allow me to put some flesh and bones. I am currently allotting 25% of my gross salary to the instruments I mentioned in the first paragraph. Do the math with the taxes and deductions, and you’ll note that I’m living with much less than 50% of my gross. The projections I made were based on assumptions that I will 1) be a tenured UP employee, and 2) I will be in this institution until I retire. It goes without saying that at any time, God may call me out of this profession and institution, hence, the “goal” or projection is far from being set in stone.
Secondly, If I do achieve that goal, and retire with an almost 8-digit lump sum, it will not be for me to decide whether to use the sum to play golf all day and live a “ahh, this is the life” life. After building up that amount for more than four decades, I would have to concede, as early as now, that I may not even experience a single centavo of it, should God so desire. And the best part is that, most likely, God will ask you to give it wilfully, just like Jesus asked of the rich young ruler.
On top of setting and in the process of trying to meet the goal, I always make it a point to give first, and to not scrimp out on opportunities to give financially to those in need. This means that I still give regularly to the Church, fulfil my thrice a year commitment to give to certain workers of a para-church organization, give to those with occasional needs (students asking for camp subsidies, contributing to friends who need to pay medical bills, etc.). If any of these things cannot be done without sacrificing the goal, then it’s clear that the goal has to go, or be momentarily foregone.
As God looks at the heart of the giver, we should never forget to be joyful in all situations and for various reasons:
- Because God allowed you to meet your goal
- Because you did not meet your goal but instead met God’s goal for your life
- Because you were able to give
- Because you knew you were able to do something of eternal significance
- Because you pleased God
In a nutshell:
- It is not really wrong to set goals, however…
- Before setting goals, realize that God has the right to do whatever he pleases with your life and possessions
- Align your goals with what God wants you to do – pray about goals BEFORE setting them; not after doing so and asking God to “help” you achieve them.
- Be more than willing to realign for divine causes.
- Never let goals detract you from giving