Photo by Andrew Koay and Joyce Lim
Written by Agnes Lee, Singapore
One Sunday at church, my five-year-old niece and her family sat in the row in front of me. All of a sudden, she turned back and asked me innocently, “Aunty Agnes, how did you come to church today?”
I replied quietly, “By train.”
“Why don’t you have a car? My daddy has a car.”
I felt conflicted when I heard her question. Do I tell her that I really cannot afford one?
I didn’t want to sound poor, so I finally replied, “A car is not the only mode of transportation.” I’m not sure if she understood me, but her mom hushed her and she turned back to the service.
Her question about the car stayed in my mind. Although having a car would be more convenient and comfortable for family outings—especially with my little son—my husband and I just simply cannot afford one.
For a long time, I resented the fact that both my husband and myself are average salaried workers, earning enough only to make ends meet every month. It was unfair. Why did God withhold financial freedom and good things from us? Didn’t He say that He would give us good gifts (Matthew 7:11) and the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4)?
But as I came to know God better, I realized that He is the greatest treasure I could ever have. I would rather lose all my worldly wealth before losing sight of God and my salvation.
God’s Comfort Is More Valuable Than Wealth
When I was young and single, I had a lot of financial freedom. I enjoyed shopping and good food. Whenever I was stressed from work, those were the things I reached for to distract me from my problems. I thought I was coping well, and after a bit of indulgence, I would feel temporarily better and resume my life.
Even though I attended church, I did not turn to the Bible for comfort. Perhaps having financial freedom and living comfortably made me feel self-contented. Perhaps my heart was too hardened to allow the Word of God to grow within me and help me mature in the faith. Like the seed falling among thorns in the parable of the sower, my heart was choked by the deceitfulness of wealth (Matthew 13:22).
But four years ago, I went through a devastating time in my marriage. Shopping, food, and any amount of money would not have solved our family quarrels. I could see no way out. This was when God pointed me back to His Word.
Though my situation worsened day by day, I found comfort and peace in God’s Word even as I came to the end of myself. I realized that God was really all that I needed. As I waited and put my hope in the Lord, He helped me and my husband resolve our marriage troubles.
As my passion for the Lord grew and I read more of the Bible, I began to develop a different view towards wealth. I no longer viewed it as the answer to my problems. Instead, I realized that God is my sole source of comfort in times of trouble. And because of that, I can be content in all situations, whether rich or poor, because my salvation is not dependent on my wealth.
However, after me and my husband reconciled, I had to contribute more towards family expenses, and finances became tighter. Tithing became an act of faith, but God continued to show me His providence and sustaining grace. And more importantly, God taught me what it means to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Regardless of our income levels, we have a responsibility to steward our finances well. When I was in school, I was once asked to help raise funds for a charity organization. I was not yet a believer then, but I donated a considerable portion of my pocket money because I wanted to please the teacher. After that, my heart ached for the money which I would have liked to spend on something else for myself. While I could afford to spare the money, my heart was not pure in my giving.
Living in Contentment
Now that I’m a Christian and have a deeper understanding of what it means to give to God, I am challenged to give more generously and with a pure heart. Just as Matthew 19:28-30 says, if we leave behind our earthly pleasures to follow God, then at the renewal of all things, we will gain more and inherit eternal life. This reminds me not to seek only temporal comfort, but to live and give with a view towards eternity.
But while I’m still living on this earth, I am not spared from temptation. Whenever I see others seemingly able to buy anything they want, I inevitably feel a little jealous. Because I work in the Central Business District, I often see people driving pass in luxury cars. Sometimes I wish I could be one of them. But when I submit my desires to God, I realize that His plans are different for all of us. He makes some wealthy, and others average earners like myself. But regardless of our financial status, as long as we choose to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, God calls us His children.
Knowing this, I am satisfied with my financial limitations. Like Paul, I know the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether I am well fed or in hunger (Philippians 4:12). I can give thanks to God always because He will take care of my every need (Matthew 6:26).