“I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
-Scarlett O’Hara, “Gone With the Wind”
Everybody is fascinated with Scarlett. But nobody wants to admit how much like her we can be.
One way to understand LifeVesting is to define it in terms of what it isn’t. LifeVestors have four alter-egos: consumers, hoarders, gamblers, and codependents. Today I’d like to introduce you to the first.
While in the purest economic sense everyone is a spender, the Consumers I’m talking about are takers. They spend their money, their time, their relationships on today’s wants and needs. Their primary focus is on themselves – though not always in an intentionally selfish way. They come to church for what they can get out of it. They spend their time and money in ways that, when spent, are gone forever. For them, there is no other moment but now. Tomorrow will take care of itself.
Like Scarlett O’Hara, they get it backwards. Spend today, and worry about the details and tough choices tomorrow. Like the rich fool in Jesus’ famous parable (Luke 12:16-20), they’re sure the sun’ll come up tomorrow, just like it did today.
Everybody has immediate needs, but consumers build their lives around theirs. They’re at a loss to define or even consider the long-term consequences of their decisions. So they spend away their time, their money, their relationships, their energy. And they spend it faster than it comes in. When they run out of their own resources, they typically don’t stop there. They either mortgage their future in the form of debts, or they find somebody else’s resources to use up.
At best, consumers are always running on “empty” themselves, often frustrated when they can’t have what they want, when they want it. At their worst, they become users and leeches, draining the resources and energy of those around them. They aren’t bad people; they’ve just learned to define their self-worth in terms of their ability to get what they want. In other words, they’ve chosen to believe a lie.
Here’s how I know I’ve slipped into Consumer mode:
1. When I don’t know where I stand financially.
2. When I find myself wondering what I did with my time.
3. When I’ve been too busy to return phone calls or spend quality time with people I care about.
There are many more dimensions to life than time and money, but those are the two most measurable and most indicative of our stewardship of life.
So do you want to go from consumer to LifeVestor?
1. Generously give some of your life away. I’m talking about some money. Or time. Or support. And by all means, give first, before you spend.
2. Focus on shifting your actions from impulse-oriented to goal-oriented. In other words, have a reason – an aim – for what you are doing. However you choose to use your energy or influence, your money or time, have a target.
3. Stop referring to “wants” as “needs.” I once heard that fat people have up to 16 different reasons for eating. Thin people have just one – they’re hungry. In other words, they’re need-focused rather than want focused. Try applying that same thinking to spending money, managing relationships, or leading people.
4. “Sow” into your future early and often. In financial terms, “pay yourself first.” In agricultural terms, hold out some seed for next year’s crop.
5. Always, always know where you stand. “Know the state of your flocks,” Proverbs 27:23 says. Know where your time and money are coming and going. Know – really know – the state of your relationships. “Automatic pilot” are the consumer’s ticket to guaranteed disappointment in the future.
How about you? What are some things (not just financial) you can do to invest in your future?