by Jack Alexander
Mars, Venus, and “Investing”
I was recently reminded of the book, “Warren Buffett Invests Like A Girl.” Seeing the title again made me laugh, especially as I considered how the author, Louann Lofton, cornered Buffett at one of his annual shareholders meeting where he supposedly “confessed.” The book highlights how women have a steadfastness and greater propensity to hold on to their investments for long-term, while most men (but not Buffett!) do not. Men tend to be more prone to short-term thinking and taking higher risks. I think the truth is that the willingness to take wise risks and be steadfast are both needed, but not just in the investment world. Men and women need this kind of pairing for living as well.
Likewise, I was disappointed to read the results of a Women Doing Well survey that found the large majority of women feel like evangelical stewardship and education materials often did not address them. Additionally, “many feel that church and ministry leaders neglect the key role they play in directing charitable investments.”i In my own anecdotal conversations, this male dominance is too prevalent often in churches, ministries, and our homes.
When We Don’t Have Enough
Growing up, the area of provision was a “train wreck” in my home. My mother and stepfather fought continually over finances. They each had their own bank account, so decisions involved not only what we would do but who would pay for it. A “scarcity mentality” took root in our home. This “not enough” mentality choked the life out of my home. After all, when we believe that there is “not enough” we hold on to love, resource, and our time. As I experienced, it is toxic to a home and a marriage. This increased pressure serves to magnify the challenges men and women have in dealing with their differences.
Popular author and communicator Brene Brown calls “not enough” the PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) of our cultureii. And for good reasons. The average American family has not experience a rise in real income, after inflation is taken into account, in 20 yearsiii. Debt is uncomfortably high. Student loans are now at $1.3 trillion – double what it was when Barack Obama was elected President. Flatlined income and burdensome debt are real issues putting pressure on our marriages and families.
How God Can Make A Difference?
God’s word is full of over 1,000 promises to His children about an array of things, including His presence and provision. The truth is that God is jealous in His role as our Provider. We even see that demonstrated in one of the names He gave Himself – Jehovah Jirah, the God who Provides. The first temptation offered by Satan to Jesus in the wilderness involved provision, “If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread!” In effect, he was saying, “Are you sovereign? Can you even care for yourself!?” In the Lord’s Prayer, the first thing we are to ask God for is “the day, our daily bread.”
So, how do we access God’s provision in a time of fear and scarcity? In my recent book, The God Guarantee: Finding Freedom From the Fear of Not Having Enough, I unpack a “pattern of provision” found five times in Scripture. I believe this pattern is crucial for understanding how to practically access God’s provision for us and our families. In each instance, God provides practically with food and safety, relationally, or spiritually.
In the book, I focus on The Feeding of the 5,000 where Jesus took five barley loaves and two fish and fed a huge crowd, complete with leftovers! This miracle is repeated in each of the four gospels. How can a 2,000-year-old story help us today with the realities of flat incomes and debt??
When Jesus took the bread and the fish, He “looked to heaven.” This pattern of provision begins with the belief that God can turn something into something else. He sees CAPACITY in things and people that we do not see. As I hold my smartphone, it’s hard to believe that the brains of it, silicon, used to be beach sand, or silica. The sand needed to be separated from impurities and put in an oven. This process turns the second most common element on earth into the “brains” of a smartphone that can store thousands of songs and messages. Likewise, who would think that aspirin can come from the bark of a willow treeiv or viper venomv can be used in the treatment of high blood pressure?
After Jesus took the bread and fish and looked to heaven, He blessed, or CONSECRATED, them. He invited God’s presence and power to do something new. We see our society and marvel at the pace at which secularization, or pushing God out of our schools and businesses, is happening. Consecration is the opposite of secularization. Do you have a challenge, a habit, or a relationship in crisis that you can invite God into? I believe that God can make a difference, but we need to invite Him into our fears and scarcity. Joshua 3:5 says, “consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” Consecration may seem like an old fashioned or forgotten word, but is critical in this pattern of provision.
The next step, CHALLENGES, is the hardest. This is where what we have is “broken.” After God is invited into our circumstances, He begins reordering things. Early in my career, I was given the largest account at the firm where I worked. Immediately after, a notice went out to all employees announcing this. Then, one of the client’s executives called our managing partner to asked that I be taken off the account. I was humiliated in front of all my coworkers. I was assigned to another company, a much smaller account, but a few years later that organization hired me and I went on to have a successful career with that company. Brokenness is painful, but always has a purpose. Remember that our enemy wants to tell us that God is not in control and does not care.
The final of the four steps is COMMUNITY. After Jesus took, blessed, and broke the bread and fish, He gave them to the crowd. If the person who was first given the bread and fish ate them all or failed to pass on the extra to their neighbor, there would not have been a miracle. As we lean in and give in to community, God provides for us. It reminds me of a story of one of the women on my staff. Shortly after moving to a new city, she and her husband’s car broke down. She reached out to the few people she knew in this new place to ask for advice about a reputable place to purchase a used car. One of the people reached back, saying they would like to gift them a car that they were planning on replacing. Apparently, the night before, this couple had been praying and sensed God leading them to give their car away, but they did not know to whom, until they heard about this need. It may be something tangible, or a new relationship, an open door, or an opportunity to serve that creates other new circumstance. Again, we have an enemy, Satan, who wants us to think that people will hurt and disappoint us…that we are better off alone.
God promises that He will care for us, but we do play a part. He says, “if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us” (James 4:8). Hebrews 11:6 says, “He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” If I were to give my wife a list of ten things to do the next week to prove that she loved me, it would not work out well!! How often, instead of seeking God and drawing near to Him, are we giving Him a list of demands? In all relationships, both marriage and in relating to God, there is a “rhythm” that impacts our provision.
Just as men and women can honor each other by seeing how their uniqueness and differences can “work together” to advance relationships and circumstances, the same can happen with God. Men’s risk taking and women’s steadfastness can be a winning combination in life – not just investing. Likewise, this “pattern of provision” involves us leaning in to God and one another. It takes trust and humility on our part. God will be steadfast and provisional in return.
Individualism is toxic. It is a lie that we are better off alone. We were created to be interdependent with God and each other. God’s simple pattern of provision will change your life. Remember, He says that “I will never leave you or forsake you, even to the end of the age” (Hebrews 13:5). He desires to love and provide for you and your family. Try things His way. He is the lover of your soul!!!
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- Women Doing Well, “Directions in Women’s Giving 2012 Executive Summary,” September 2015, http://www.womendoingwell.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/WDW-Executive-Summary-copy.pdf.
- Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (London: Penguin Books, 2012), 9.
- Wall Street Journal, May 2017.
- “Willow Bark,” University of Maryland Medical Center, accessed April 3, 2017, umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/willow-bark.
- Paul F. Torrence, “Owed to Nature: Medicines from Tropical Forests,” Rainforest Trust, January 26, 2013, rainforesttrust.org/news/owed-to-nature-medicines-from-tropical-forests/.