I don’t want to be the one to ruin your fantasies, but have you ever considered that your fantasies may be ruining you?
Figuring out life and finance is a tough business. Because money is tied to so many things — our work, our families, our homes, our spending, our faith, our identities — our financial lives can sometimes resemble a big, jumbled ball of thread, all knotted and tangled and impossible to unravel.
Because of this, there are all sorts of things that can cause us financial hardship, or even make us slaves to money. Some of these things are so deeply hidden in our hearts that we don’t even recognize the threats that they represent.
Your fantasy life is one of those things. If you don’t deal with your dreams correctly, they could cause you trouble.
Having life dreams and goals seems like time-honored tradition. It’s firmly entrenched in our culture — they don’t call it the “American Dream” for nothing.
And yet if we don’t manage our thought life correctly, these aspirations can lead us astray.
This principle comes from Proverbs 28:19. Let’s take a look at the simple message:
Those who work their land will have abundant food,
but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.
The first part of this verse comes as no surprise — the Bible is full of encouragement about diligence and hard work. It’s the second half that delivers a more surprising insight: If we spend our lives pursuing fantasies, it’s going to lead us away from wealth and toward poverty.
Working Your Land
In order to make sense of what this means for our lives, we need to understand two things: What does the proverb mean by “work their land” and what does it mean by “chase fantasies”?
Working your land is a reference to agriculture (the predominate industry during Old Testament time), but it applies to everyone. Your land is the work that God has set out before you. It could be your job, it could be your ministry, it could be your family. It could be the calling that you have inside but have yet to actualize.
This verse is telling us that as long as we are faithful to work hard at what God has called us to do, He will be faithful to provide to meet our needs — and to meet them in abundance. If we use our talents and giftings to serve the people that God has put around us on a consistent basis, we don’t ever have to fear poverty.
Chasing fantasies, though, takes us far afield of our own land.
Illusion and Mirage
A fantasy, by definition, is something that seems great in our minds, but doesn’t exist in reality. It is an illusion, a mirage based on our unchecked desires and corrupted hearts.
Fantasies are tricks that we play on ourselves.
Whether your fantasies are financial, sexual, emotional or intellectual, they always seem great from a distance. But because they are divorced from reality, fantasies can do really dangerous things to us if we follow them.
This is what the proverb means: Fantasies are all those things in your life that seem great, but aren’t real. You can spend time running after them — lots of people do. But every step that you take toward your fantasy is one step away from the land that you’re supposed to be working.
A Lesson from Adam Sandler
If you’re a fan of cheesy ’90s movies, you may recognize this principle in the story of Happy Gilmore. Adam Sandler’s character in the film grew up idolizing hockey, and he spent much of his adult life trying to become a hockey player. He wasn’t cut out for it, though, and his life was in shambles because he couldn’t accept the fact that hockey was a fantasy.
It was only when Happy accepted that his true calling was golf — and only when he worked hard enough to maximize his capacity in the sport — that he achieved success and turned his life around.
This example is a farce, but if you’re honest you might recognize some of the same characteristics in your own life. Are you still trying to make it as a professional musician, even though you’re not talented enough? Do you keep trying to start businesses, even though you’re terrible with organization and problem solving?
Do you play the lottery hoping that it will make you wealthy? Do you think your big break as an actor is right around the corner?
Are you ignoring the mundane things that you are truly gifted at because you’re chasing fantasies that aren’t based in reality?
Serving Others vs. Serving Yourself
God gives us talents and resources for a reason: He wants us to use them to serve the people that He brings into our lives. So often, though, our fantasies are based not on talents or resources that we do have, but only those we wish we had.
And all too often, we fantasize about using those things not to serve others, but to serve ourselves.
There’s a difference, of course, between dreams and fantasies, and we’ll explore that difference in the next post in this series.
Until then, though, here’s what you really need to focus on: Proverbs is telling us that selfish ambition and a misunderstanding of reality will keep us slaves to money.
If we embrace who we are and what we’re called to do, on the other hand, there’s no limit to the freedom that we can achieve.
Photo by Lennart Tange. Used under Creative Commons License.