Faith and Finances

Is this Bible Passage encouraging Financial Independence Retire Early(FIRE)?

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

About brotherly love: You don’t need me to write you because you yourselves are taught by God to love one another. 10 In fact, you are doing this toward all the brothers and sisters in the entire region of Macedonia. But we encourage you, brothers and sisters, to do this even more, 11 to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, 12 so that you may behave properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone.

My wife and I were reading this passage together and talking about it. There are five marks of a peaceful life in this passage . But it also brings up a good conversation about Financial Independence that we’ll process through.

  1. Seek to lead a quiet life.
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To set this up, Paul is writing here to a group of Christians who are doing pretty well with loving each other. He’s admonishing them to continue to love each other well. Most likely these people had quit their jobs because they were preparing for Jesus to come back. There was some sort of drama because they were needy and acting out of their needs. As well, they had tons of idol time because they weren’t working. They were most likely spending time that should’ve been utilized working and instead were involved in some sort of drama.

As well, we see Paul is reiterating his message when it says “as we commanded you”.

Paul’s challenge here starts with this strong but beautiful statement. Lead a quiet life. When I imagine a quiet life, I’m initially taken to the Amish. And while I believe that’s an extreme example, there is a reality of simplifying your life that is clear here. Other translations say, “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life”. Make it your goals to seek to live a quiet life. What this quiet life looks like is to not be caught up in the affairs of the world. The question we have to ask ourselves is, how are we doing at living a quiet life?

2. Mind your own business.

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People who are board spend their time meddling in the affairs of others. They are bored and start spending their time worrying about things in other people’s lives. Work has a good purpose in life. It helps people to put their time and energy into something. It reminds me somewhat of this passage in Proverbs.

Proverbs 16:27-28
27 A worthless man digs up evil,
and his speech is like a scorching fire.
28 A contrary man spreads conflict,
and a gossip separates close friends.

In other words, if you want to live a quiet life, quit worrying about other people’s business. That’s what living a quiet life looks like. Not getting into local gossip or “he said/she said” stuff.

3. Work with your own hands.

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No one owes you anything! Straight up! No one owes you anything in this world. You get things because you work, earn money and get things. The believers here possibly thought that their quitting their jobs was a form of faith. Paul had already corrected them before. He was not having it.

One of the most important things I’ve realized in this world is that if I spend my life waiting on others to improve MY situation, help ain’t coming! I’ve gotta quit waiting. I’ve gotta quit seeking permission. If I want to improve my situation it all starts with the man in the mirror. And I’ve got to go work. Make Money. Manage my money well and build on my situation. If somewhere along the line I get a life line, cool. But regardless, I can’t wait for something that probably isn’t coming. Or something that requires me to give up a portion of my life. I’ve got to go and work my way to a better situation.

4. Set an example to outsiders.

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As Christians, we can be funny about things. Quit our jobs. Start asking everyone to take care of us. While they’re working and seeing how able bodied we are. And meanwhile non Christians are looking at us completely confused.

“If Jesus is coming back, were they worried he’d not come and get them at their job?”
“Do they have a carry on packed?”

I can make fun of this but many times I forget the need for urgency. And at least these people being addressed believed he’s coming. Or they were just needing an excuse to be lazy. A watching world sees us as Christians and sees the decisions we are making. They ask questions trying to figure out our intentions, motives, expected outcomes and what we believe. Ultimately, we need to model our savior to them. Keep working. But model love towards them. Intentionally be around unbelievers. Don’t be so quick to run from them.

5. Not be dependent on anyone.

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Looking up this passage, I read multiple translations and it all essentially says the same thing. To not be leaning on others. To be a leach. To be mooching off others. It’s all the same thing over and over. And this brings me to the question about FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early).

I believe that this passage would line up with the idea of Financial Independence. But the extent that is being addressed is someone who previously is taking from others but doesn’t have to. It’s one thing if you are in a rough season, disabled or are needing the help of others. It’s another thing if you are simply selfish and lazy.

Financial Independence is a good thing in a lot of ways. But what’s the freedom for? What’s your goal with retiring early? And like this passage, all the previous points talked about applies. If you are a Christian, you have to ask yourself what kind of testimony will you have to lost people? Are you Financially Independent to self indulge? Are you retiring early to just quit in life? Are you retiring at all, any age, to just serve your self?

All of this comes back to your purpose? If you can fulfill your purpose while being Financially Independent, and you feel the Holy Spirit is leading you that direction, then it’s just a decision you need to make. But also, remember the dangers of money. They’ll always apply to you. They’ll always bring temptations that you’ll need to assess in your life.

In the words of Lecrae, “Being broke made me rich”. Don’t underestimate the importance of struggling that was in your life. And how as you get older, you may need to do more to teach your kids that. You may need to do more to not place your hope in being Financially Independent. Seeking FIRE is not necessarily a bad thing to me. But you have to always be thinking of how you can serve others through the Freedom that FIRE brings.

And always be ready to sell all you have and give to the poor. But that’s another post that’s coming soon….

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