Bethany House Publishers
The Lie: I deserve to have it all, and to have it all right now.
"The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run."--HENRY DAVID THOREAU
Face it: The encouragement to have it all, and to have it all right now, is everywhere. From our first waking moment, until we close our eyes at night, we are told we are entitled to more, to bigger, to better. Every product out there is designed and promoted to somehow entitle us to more luxury, time, effortless existence, or happiness.
We hear that we deserve a break today, that we should expect more, and that we shouldn't have to do without or wait even an extra day. The ads are everywhere. Gone are the adages "Good things come to those who wait."; "Patience is a virtue"; "Anything worth having is worth waiting for."
When I was a teenager, credit cards weren't yet in common use. But finance companies were more than happy to fill the gap. They offered loans to send you on your way to well-deserved vacations or to buy that new car that would somehow drive you into utopia. They encouraged and enticed you to believe that you shouldn't have to wait—not even for your income tax refund. They promised rapid response and a congenial staff, all at interest rates of 25 percent or more. After all, there is a price for having it all right now.
As the years passed I saw the onslaught of credit card companies offering much the same, but at lower interest rates and with a revolving balance. Soon credit cards were everywhere, even at school. It didn't matter if you had a job or still lived at home with your folks. They wanted to "help you establish your credit" so that you could be a free and independent adult.
I bought into the lie that I deserved to have it all, and to have it all right now. It wasn't a hard lie to buy into, since prosperity was even being preached in the church! The media demanded I take note—that I take charge of my life and have all that I was entitled to. Everyone else seemed to be doing that very thing, and I didn't want to be left out.
I took out my first loan at eighteen. Actually, I took out two loans—one for a car and one from a finance company so that I could buy some clothes for my new grown-up job. I quickly found out, however, that the very thing that was supposed to set me free had instead taken me captive. I had to keep working in order to make those monthly payments. I couldn't miss even a single payment or my credit would be forever damaged. This new "liberty" kept me bound to jobs I hated, forced me to live with other people in order to afford rent and utilities, and reduced my life to merely existing from paycheck to paycheck.
The focus of our culture is that we deserve to have it all, and we deserve to have it all right now. But it seems like no one ever wants to discuss the cost of such a mentality. And there are costs—high prices—to be paid for living outside our means, allowing greed and envy to rule our lives, and coveting what isn't ours.
When I married, I did so with debts. It wasn't something I wanted to take with me into my new life, but I knew I had no choice; it was the price I was paying for believing the lie that I could have it all without having to wait. The sad truth, though, was that I didn't have it all. I really only had the basic essentials, and even they were above my income level.
It wasn't long before my husband and I were trapped into getting another credit card in order to buy food and gas, while we used our wages to pay off the first credit card. This snowballed to the place where we suddenly owned half a dozen credit cards, all of which carried heavy balances. We were out of control to be sure, but hey, we deserved to have the things we needed, didn't we? The media made sure we got this message, on a daily basis.
Then tragedy struck with full force. My husband's health failed him, and the doctor told us he would need to stop working for a time. We hit the wall and watched the pieces spill out around us. There we sat ... with more debt than we could ever hope to pay back, a family to provide for, and our income cut in half. There were few options for us, and the road looked pretty bleak. When this happened, I learned I wasn't alone. Many of my friends were in the same boat, for entirely different reasons. We were all facing bankruptcy. The lie had failed us.
I sat with a group of women not long ago, and we discussed this very issue. Our conversation went something like this:
"I saw everyone around me living better than we did," my friend Mary began. "My friends were buying houses, new cars, and sending their kids to private schools. I just knew we must be doing something wrong, because didn't we also deserve to have those things?"
"Exactly," Kathy chimed in. "I felt that I was entitled to the good life my parents had. I wanted to start where they left off. It seemed fair to me, but what I didn't understand was how hard they had worked and sacrificed to get where they were. They weren't in debt and had strict rules about saving money, which was why they could afford to go on vacation or buy something new. They never allowed themselves so much as a credit card, so there was no revolving balance to pay off."
"But you can't get along without a credit card in this day and age," Samantha added. "Try making a plane reservation or renting a car without one."
"True enough," I replied. "It seems the world has encouraged our love affair with credit cards, but we aren't equipped with the wisdom and ability to handle the situation."
"I was never encouraged to pay off my balance each month. I remember one time," Mary said, "calling to make an early payoff on our car, and the bank personnel went out of their way to convince me that I shouldn't spend my money that way. After all, I'd paid so long on the car loan that now most of the money was going to the principle and not the interest."
Hearing each of these women share basically the same story, I braved the question: "How many of you have come to recognize the lie you bought into—the lie that we deserve to have it all right now?"
"I think we all see that lie now," Samantha stated. The rest of them nodded.
"So what have you done to eliminate the lie and replace it with the truth?"
"It was hard to eliminate the lie," Kathy began. "My husband was definitely into appearances, and this just fed my desire to start out where my parents left off. He wanted a nice home with the latest model of everything, whether it was a big-screen TV or a lawn mower, and he extended that desire to the kids and me as well. He wanted me to dress in the best clothes and the kids to have the best toys, games, and computers.
"When I explained to him that I felt we were out of control—that we were barely making minimum payments due to our spending—he was not happy. To his way of thinking, I'd somehow questioned his ability to provide. We fought like cats and dogs for years on this issue. Finally one day I talked him into seeing a financial planner for some life insurance choices. The planner took one look at our debt and income and asked how in the world we were even making it from month to month. I think that was the first time my husband truly saw the situation for what it was."
"My husband blamed me," Mary said sadly. "And I suppose he was right to do so. I controlled the checkbook and the credit cards. I would see something I wanted and automatically start figuring in my mind how I could juggle things around to pay for it. Of course, things never worked out on paper the way they did in my mind, and by then it was too late. To eliminate the lie, I had to sit down with my husband and come clean about everything. I asked him to take back the credit cards, and to my surprise he ended up cutting them all up. He said if we couldn't control ourselves with them, we'd control ourselves without them."
"For me," I shared, "recognition of the lie was simple enough. I knew that no one really ‘deserved' anything, but I had convinced myself that I ‘needed' those things. Eventually, I saw the lie in that too. I didn't need half of those things! Being interested in history, I knew that many wealthy people were self-made, so to speak. They had started with very little and had managed it into a fortune. To eliminate the lie, I started studying up on how I could manage what I had—not to make it into a fortune, but simply to eliminate the heavy load of debt."
"Education is very helpful. You know, there are Christian counseling places now," Kathy added. "They were able to help us. Otherwise, I think our marriage might have fallen completely apart."
"Money issues are the number one reason people divorce," Samantha added. "But I guess for me, the elimination of the lie came in accepting that it was okay not to have the same thing that everyone else had. If I didn't have the money saved up for a women's retreat or conference that I wanted to attend, I didn't go. But the neat thing is that as I turned to the Lord for guidance in this, I found He provided when things really mattered. I might not have been able to get that cute pair of designer shoes, but I had good shoes that served the same purpose."
"We're a label-minded culture," Mary said sadly. "I found myself avoiding even things I really liked if it didn't have the right label."
"I think the important thing is that we turn to the Lord for help," Kathy added. "Labels or no labels, counselors or no counselors, until we recognized that we had a problem that only God could help us fix, we were just going in circles. Self-control, after all, is evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in us.
"God wants us to be self-controlled. It doesn't mean we can't have nice things. It doesn't mean we can't buy designer shoes. It simply means that we stop worrying about what the world wants us to have, and focus instead on what God wants us to have. I was blessed by Philippians 4:19. It says, ‘My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.' If God was going to meet and provide for my needs, why was I worried about anything?"
Mary leaned forward. "I think the verse that helped me eliminate the lie was the one from the Ten Commandments that talks about not coveting anything of your neighbor's. I was bad about this. I saw things that other people had, and I wanted them. God had to help me see that my motivation was completely based on envy and greed."
How Did We Get Here?Very few people can have whatever they want by simply pulling cash out of their pocket. For most Americans there are a variety of loans to be had—through credit cards, finance companies, banks, or personal loans. Seldom is being in debt given a second thought. It's considered to be one of those unavoidable circumstances. Yet in my grandmother's generation, having debt was considered shameful, and in times long before my grandmother was born accusing someone of having debts was an insult. Most people simply did not have debts. So what happened to us?
Following World War II, our country underwent a great many changes. While buying on credit had existed prior to this time, the practice really began to flourish when the flood of soldiers returned home. They were anxious to put their lives back together in a hurry, and everyone else was happy to help them do so. The GI Bill enabled them to purchase a home more easily and even provided loans for college tuition.
After enduring the rations and restrictions of wartime, the country was ready to see prosperity thrive. There were encouragements to set up accounts with prominent department stores that would allow consumers to purchase materials on time. It was a fascinating concept for many who had never considered carrying a debt, even with a family member.
The demand for automobiles grew as American families began to see them as a "necessity"—a necessity that had to be paid for over time in most cases. And as radio was replaced by the wonder of television, first in black and white and later in color, we were able to see all of the products and goods that we were told we needed, which created an even greater desire for them. As a nation we had opened a Pandora's box of credit, and our lives would never be the same.
Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." I think a lot of times we take this verse as a kind of vending machine promise. We say to ourselves, "If I'm happy in the Lord, He's going to give me everything I ask for." But I see this verse differently. If we delight ourselves in God—if He alone is the one we seek and we find our joy in Him—then the desires that are in our hearts will be His desires. Our motivations, desires, and goals will flow from our relationship with Him.
Another verse I often hear taken as a pledge of prosperity is Jeremiah 29:11: "‘For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you.'"
But what about the harm we cause ourselves? God didn't force me to overspend on my credit card. God didn't give me the driving desire to have the things I saw my friends possess. I did myself harm by believing the world when I should have been turning to my heavenly Father for advice.
God wants to prosper us—but that can take many forms. We can prosper spiritually, physically, mentally, or emotionally. We can prosper by having a family or by getting a new job or a new ministry, but we can also prosper by learning patience or acquiring more friends.
Please don't misunderstand me. I know that God is able to give us in abundance whatever He chooses. I know that every good and perfect gift comes from Him, just as the Word says (James 1:17). But I also know that the single mom living in poverty with her children is just as loved by the Lord as the wealthy woman sitting in a mansion. I worry that we've become respecters of persons (James 2:9) in our worldly focus on prosperity—that we are guilty of seeing the rich man as worthy of our company, while relegating the poor out of our sight because we think they don't have faith or they have sin in their lives.
Proverbs 3:1–2 tells us, "My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity." By keeping God's commands, we prolong our lives and ensure ourselves prosperity. It may not be the kind of prosperity we expect, but we will prosper.
Seeking God First Is the KeyThe sixth chapter of Matthew is full of wisdom regarding this issue of having it all now. Here Jesus tells us, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (vv. 19–20). By drawing closer to God and serving Him, we secure heavenly, lasting treasure.
Jesus tells us later in that same chapter that we shouldn't worry about our lives—about what we'll eat or drink, or what we'll wear. He reminds us that God knows what we need, then adds, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (v. 33). Seek God first. This is the best way to replace the lie I deserve to have it all, and to have it all right now.
By seeking God first, our hearts will change, and in turn our desires will change. We'll suddenly realize that we don't "need" a new this or that. We can be content with exactly what we have. Financial wealth and worldly goods will take on less importance because we have something far better—the peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Instead of putting our trust in the world and what it can offer, we find our security in the faithfulness of God.
Having money, property, possessions, and the ability to do many of the things we desire isn't sinful or wrong in itself. But when those things begin to control us because we have bought into the lie, then we must acknowledge that we have a problem and turn to the Lord for help. He is the only one who can set us free.
Thinking It Through: Personal Application
1. What are some ways you've bought into this lie?
2. How can you eliminate this lie in your life, especially when the world pushes for you to believe it?
3. Do you have a budget? A savings account? A plan for getting out of debt? If not, what is a first step you could take to improve your financial situation?
4. Which of the following verses in the Bible can help you overcome the "need" to have it all ... right now? 1 Timothy 6:6–11; Proverbs 15:16; Hebrews 13:5–6; 1 Timothy 6:17. If one speaks to you in a special way, write it out and post it on your mirror.
5. If you struggle in this area, what kind of support group can you put together to help you overcome the lie? (Friends? Family? Financial planners? Counselors?)
How well I can relate to this lie! For me, the "all" was having a man, a home, being thin and looking great, and appearing for all the world to be one big happy family. In other words, I was into creating the ultimate fairy tale. The fact that creating this fallacy often cost a great deal of money was something I frequently overlooked.
For years I truly believed that "money grows on trees." But eventually I had to face the music and seek ways to overcome this deceptive lie. In my case, I found it helpful to weigh the financial costs of something against the spiritual cost. As I sought wisdom and guidance from the Lord, looking to His Word for answers, I began to make better choices that were based in God's truth, not the empty promises of the world. It's an ongoing struggle. We have to be on guard all the time. But it sure gets easier the more times you turn toward God and away from the lie that you deserve to have it all ... right now.