Thomas Stanley was one of the most important myth busters in America. His original Millionaire Next Door changed the way we understand wealth building in America. His book Stop Acting Rich is probably my favorite, but his book Millionaire Mind tried to address the mindset (as opposed to the practical – cut spending, investing, etc.) of the most financially successful.
Since Dr. Stanley passed away last year, Dave Ramsey has started doing a Millionaire theme hour every few months where he brings on real life average millionaires and asks them a few questions. What becomes apparent listening to a few of these is that there are a number of popular myths around those that have accumulated wealth:
- Wealthy inherited their money
- Wealthy are famous
- The wealthy did something unethical to gain their wealth
- The wealthy are workaholics without families
- The wealthy went to a top college or university
- The wealthy are smarter or more intelligent
- The wealthy started with money (It takes money to make money)
- The wealthy live extravagantly (new cars, expensive jeans, etc.)
The reality – both statistically and anecdotally – is that that these just aren’t true. The vast majority are first generation millionaires (88%) that live very inconspicuous lives (1% are famous musicians or athletes), acquired their wealth slowly by saving over a long period of time, have long stable marriages, and graduated in the middle of their class with average GPAs.
Instead, in the Millionaire Mind, Stanley ranked the most important attributes:
- Being Honest – Integrity
- Being Disciplined
- Getting along with people
- Having a supportive spouse
- Working hard
HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO ME?
You might be wondering how this applies if you’re in Seminary or a graduate school. First, it’s amazing the wisdom of scripture (especially Proverbs) that bleeds through:
- “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by duplicity.”
- “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.”
- “The prudent hold their tongues.” “Blessed are the peacemakers”
- “A wife of noble character….more precious than rubies. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.”
- “Hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”
If you’ve chosen to spend your life studying and teaching the scriptures, rest assured that if you practically apply what you’ve learned to your own life you are on the road to “all these things being added unto you.”
Second, critically analyze any negative thinking you may have around going into ministry. “I’m going into ministry, so I’ll never be financially stable.” “I’ll never be able to go to Seminary without debt.” Is that true? Maybe. But maybe not. God calls different people into different circumstances, but we do know that “The blessing of the LORD makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” I believe the key to that verse isn’t “rich”, it’s “no sorrow”. You can have a rich ministry with no financial sorrow. You can have a rich marriage, with no sorrow. A rich friendship without drama is a blessing from the LORD.
Third, in The Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren says God cares more about your Character than your Circumstances. You may have noticed that Stanley’s keys are all issues of character. In Seminary, you’re presented with an overwhelming amount of information – brain knowledge. But it’s important to remember that the hard work of discipleship is developing your inner life to be “the same as that of Christ Jesus”. Regardless of your and my future financial gain, we can agree that Jesus had great integrity, showed great diligence and discipline, worked well with others, and wasn’t lazy. This is why Paul said “godliness with contentment is great gain.”
The point of this post: If you’re struggling with financial matters, let’s look at:
Mind: Do I have Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) around money, the wealthy, my finances, my future? Are these true in light of scripture?
Body: Do I practically have financially destructive actions or habits in my income or outgo?
Spirit: Do I have character issues that I need to work through?
In reviewing this article I think it’s important to note that the scriptures don’t give a formula that teaches CHARACTER leads to WEALTH. The point of this article is that many believe that wealth and good character are incompatible or incongruent, and that certainly isn’t the case.
It’s also important to note that the point of our finances isn’t becoming a millionaire or independence – especially from God who provides all our needs (Pro 30:9, I Cor 4:7, Matt 6:11, 1 Tim 6:17, Phil 4:19). Instead I believe we can and should aspire towards ‘Freedom’, specifically from debt both current and future.