Tag Archives: happy money

Isaiah 39

Scripture: from verse 8

“There will be peace and security in my days.”

Observation:  I’d say that Hezekiah was an idiot if it weren’t for the fact that we all do this.  So humans are idiots.  Hezekiah, after a salutary reminder that everything he is and had and could have was a gift of God, and after promising to remember his lesson and be much more humble in the future, promptly forgot the entire incident.  Messengers arrived from Babylon to congratulate him on not being sick anymore, and Hezekiah showed off all of his wealth and strength to them, apparently forgetting that he was remembering that those things were God’s and none of Hezekiah’s doing.  When Isaiah told Hezekiah that this had been a mistake and would eventually result in Babylon conquering Jerusalem and capturing Hezekiah’s descendants, Hezekiah figured this was good news because at least his reign would be peaceful.

It’s just so deliciously human of him.  As soon as the revelation loses relevance, he forgets about it.  He reverts to assuming that his things are his, that he has some control over his destiny, that what he sees is what there is.

That’s why God sent to Holy Spirit to be with us, to remind us of what we already know.  We get glimpses of eternity to remind us of the truth.  We get new eyes and new hearts because the old ones are broken beyond repair.

Application:  Don’t let revelations fall by the wayside.  Ask the Holy Spirit for the truth.

Prayer:  Holy Spirit, I praise you because you see things as they are and you do not change.  I thank you for giving me access to the truth.  I praise you because your memory is reliable and I know mine is not.  Please help me to remember what I already know, and forgive me when I forget.  Amen.

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Isaiah 32

Scripture: verse 20

Happy are you who sow by all streams,
letting oxen and donkeys roam freely.

Observation:  Someday God will reign as King, and He will be what each person needs in the place that they are, and those who need healing in body or mind will get it, and everyone will be righteous and “the effect of righteousness shall be peace” (verse 17).

And then there’s this bit: they will sow by all streams and let their animals wander freely, implying that both crops and herds would no longer be owned and managed by individuals, but by whoever was around at the time.

In other words, the hippies had it right.

Now, the hippies had it wrong, too.  Their communes failed because humans are sinful and the world is not safe.  This passage speaks of a time when righteousness and justice win.  Peace and communism are the result of righteousness, not the other way around.

Application:  Seek first the kingdom of God, and all things will be given to you. (Matthew 6:33)

Prayer:  Yeshua, thank you for bringing peace.  Thank you for making it possible for humans to love each other and work together.  Thank you for giving us beautiful ideas, even if those ideas are not for who and where we are.  Help me to seek you first. Amen.

Isaiah 23

Scripture: from verse 18

[Tyre’s] merchandise and profits will be dedicated to Adonai; they will not be stored up or hoarded…

Observation:  This chapter was a prediction of destruction for Tyre, a major crossroads and port, for the usual pride and rebellion.  God promises at the end that Tyre will be restored as a prosperous port city, but it will be dedicated to the Lord instead of only thinking about itself.

There’s always an inclination to hoard what we have, whether it’s time or energy or money or art supplies.  Seeing the pile of surplus makes us feel safer.  But we aren’t safer: none of these things are likely to stick around if we just try to hang onto them, and God was the one keeping us safe in the first place.

I mention art supplies because I do this all the time.  I never want to use the last bit of a paint or pretty paper, because what if I never get it again?  What if I waste it?  What if I ruin it?  It’s just paint, but you wouldn’t know it from the tizzy my brain gets into.  When I did art swapping and people would include cool little cards and papers and buttons as “extras” to use in future artworks, I had to throw them out right away or I would be miserable.  Because there was only one of each thing, so I could never use any of them.  Never.  I might make something ugly, after all, and then they’d be wasted.  I think I still have a drawer of stuff I collected and couldn’t use before I realized it was a problem and started pitching them or passing them on in the next swap.

This isn’t a healthy mindset, but I know I’m not alone in it.  We keep things.  In fact, studies show that losing something makes us 2.5 times sadder than getting it made us happy in the first place.  It’s called loss aversion.  It’s crazy, but humans are crazy.

And here God shows us the way out: dedicate what we have to God.  If it’s His stuff, we don’t have to worry about wasting it.  He’ll help us manage it wisely.  And if it’s His stuff, we don’t need to worry about running out.  He’s got plenty more.  Living without fear means not hoarding what we have.

Application: Dedicate what you have to God.  Let Him take care of you.

Prayer:  Father, I praise you for being the Source of Sources, abundantly able to provide whatever I need.  Thank you for giving me everything I need and plenty of things that I want.  Help me to treat the things I have as yours, so that I can share them and invest them freely.  Amen.

Isaiah 15

Scripture: from verse 7

Therefore they carry away their wealth,
everything they have put aside

Observation:  Now Moab is getting punished.  At least God is an equal-opportunity smiter?  Okay, not really.

Anyway.  The river is full of blood and the fields are dead, so the people are fleeing, carrying the scraps of wealth that they have in portable format.  These days much of our wealth is portable (not our houses, of course, but other things) but back then their land was their wealth and their history and their anchor, and leaving it left them devastated.

The statistics on people’s saving habits these days are pretty terrible.  We don’t save.  We don’t put anything aside.  I’ve been reading a lot about behavioral economics lately (I’m auditing the fabulous Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior) and one of the things they study is why we make these decisions.  And what we learn is that people don’t think rationally.  We think of our future self as a stranger, unconnected to ourselves.  We figure that the decisions we made should be repeated, that our instincts are reliable, that the current trends will continue.  As soon as a decision gets complicated, we just go with the default option – which is usually doing nothing.

There’s a reason God tells us not to rely on our own understanding (Proverbs 3).  It’s pretty terrible.

So here we have people who have been relying on their own understanding, and they are experiencing the consequences of it.  Not only is God punishing them, but their fallback plan is also flawed, because they haven’t been listening.

Application:  Listen to what God says.  Know your biases.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for my husband, who is really good at financial planning stuff.  It is a great relief to know that we can work together on those things.  Help me to know where I’m making foolish decisions.  Amen.

Isaiah 5:1-15

Scripture: verse 8

Woe to those who add house to house
and join field to field,
until there’s no room for anyone else,
and you live in splendor alone on your land.

Observation:  The message here isn’t that surprising: if you spend all your time and energy on getting rich or powerful, you won’t have any friends.  But I like the way it is phrased, and I like the image of the riches expanding to squeeze other people out.

I had a friend once that I wanted to smack sometimes because he tended to assume that earning lots of money was the primary definition of a good husband.  When discussing his work hours or his commute or how he used his free time, his response was always geared towards how it affected his finances, not his time.  Admittedly this was while he was engaged, not married, and marriage has a way of teaching firm lessons.

And I do the same thing.  Most of the things I am good at are not monetizable, or at least not obviously so.  And I don’t feel I should be working – we have no need for it and I don’t think God is calling me that way – but I worry sometimes that I am inferior because of it.

But if I’m seeking splendor, it ought to be God’s glory.  Always.

Application:  Don’t squeeze people out.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for making me the way you have made me.  Thank you for building castles in the air with me.  Help me to welcome other people into your glory.  Amen.

Leviticus 19:19-37

Scripture: verses 23-25

When you enter the land and plant various kinds of fruit trees, you are to regard its fruit as forbidden — for three years it will be forbidden to you and not eaten.  In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, for praising Adonai.  But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit, so that it will produce even more for you; I am Adonai your God.

Observation:  Leviticus has some weird rules, you know that?  If you plant a tree, you have to wait five years to eat the fruit.  Even longer if it takes a year or two to start producing fruit at all, I would imagine.

I’m not sure why God did this.  It’s probably better for the tree or the land or both.  It’s also an act of faith: giving the first fruits to God and trusting Him to make sure that the tree keeps producing in the future.  It also encourages long-term thinking and planning, which generally leads people to make better decisions.

Happy Money says that we’re happier when we have to wait for things.  Not while we’re waiting, obviously, but once everyone gets their treat the person who had to wait is significantly happier than the person who got what they wanted right away.  Waiting isn’t a bad thing.

God wants us to put down roots.  He wants us to settle down in Him, not harvest His blessings and move on.  He wants us to take the time to make eye contact.

Those things take time, but God is the Master of Time in the first place.  He knows whether we have enough time to talk to Him.  He knows whether our plans and ministries and investments will bear fruit.  We can afford to stop and spend time with Him instead of chasing after the wind.

Application:  Spend time with God instead of worrying about the results you’re getting.  Don’t rush the harvest.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for having plans for me.  I’m sorry I worry about results too much.  Help me to stay focused on you and your provision.  Amen.

Leviticus 9:1-11

Scripture: verse 6

This is what Adonai has ordered you to do, so that the glory of Adonai will appear to you.

Observation:  The classic human religious tradeoff is that humans have to do x, y, and z, and their god will be happy with them and make them rich.  This verse is God’s version.

For one thing, we are commanded to be holy.  Not good enough, not doing enough good things to outweigh our bad things.  Holy.  We can’t be holy, so (thankfully) God has arranged for a Substitute to take all the not-holy.  But our lack of holiness requires blood and death.

We can’t make up for the not-holy.  It has to be taken away.

And once we are made holy, we aren’t necessarily promised health and wealth and happiness.  God does provide those things, but He is selective about what He gives us.  If a time of sickness or poverty will be better in the long run, that’s what He provides.  He’s a wise father, not an indulgent babysitter.

But.  We are promised the presence of His glory.  Once we are made holy, we get to see our God face to face.  We get to ask Him questions and get answers.  We get to tell Him things and have Him comfort us.  We get to see His glory.

Nobody else promises that.

Application:  According to the authors of Happy Money, people who buy experiences are happier for longer than people who buy things.  So we have a choice.  We can spend our time and energy pursuing things like wealth.  Or we can experience the glory of Almighty God.

Prayer:  Yeshua, thank you for being my Substitute, for taking my not-holy on yourself.  Thank you for being my ticket into God’s presence.  Help me to rest in His glory instead of being anxious over my own concerns.  Amen.

Leviticus 6:1-11

Note: it appears the CJB may be using a non-standard verse numbering.  Or, more likely, the traditional Jewish and Christian chapter divisions are different and it follows the Jewish one.  At any rate, I am consistently using the Complete Jewish Bible.

Scripture: from verse 9

It is to be eaten without leaven in a holy place — they are to eat it in the courtyard of the tent of meeting.

Observation: Grain offerings, which are a form of voluntary worship, were not entirely burned up.  A handful was burned, along with all the incense included, and the rest was eaten by the priests as part of God’s provision for them.  But the fact that God gave it to them did not mean they could do with it as they pleased.  They had to be holy when they ate it.

God has given Hero and me a ton of blessings, especially financial blessings.  But we are not free to do whatever we want with them.  We have to use them the way God tells us to.  It’s part of being His child.

Holy means different, other, even alien.  It means not normal, not natural.  God’s gifts aren’t meant to be used in the ways that seem normal and natural to us at first glance.  That means different things in different contexts, but it’s always wise to seek His guidance in how to use things.  So we do.

In reality, it’s probably just as well.  I recently read Happy Money, which explores what spending decisions make people happiest.  What was interesting was how counter-intuitive our happiness is.  People were rarely able to predict what decisions would make them happiest after the money was spent.

So when God tells us to use our blessings in ways that don’t make sense to us – when He pushes us to invest in others, to spend time doing things we wouldn’t have expected, to eat unleavened bread in the holy place – it’s probably because He loves us.  And He loves us too much to miss the opportunity of making us happy.

Application:  Pray before spending, whether spending time or money or energy or whatever else He has given you.  God has a plan, and His plan gives you a future and a hope.  Follow it.

Prayer: Father, thank you for guiding us.  Thank you for blessing us and teaching us to bless others.  Help me to follow you closely and trust you implicitly.  Help me to be other.  Amen.