A lot of the people I work with have bought into the “Freedom 55” concept as a goal for their lives. Most of my colleagues are in their mid to late 40s and they are looking forward to being able to retire with some financial security so they can do what they have always wanted to do. Then, you see, they will be free to live the good life. Or so the theory goes.
But what exactly is the good life? Is it really based on achieving financial freedom at 55? In that case, I guess I missed the boat, because I’m 56 and still working.
The tragedy is that most of the people who want financial freedom have bought into a lie. The lie has nothing to do with financial planning. It has to do with the idea that you am truly free when you get to do exactly what you want to do, whatever will make you happy, whatever floats your boat – whether it’s a beautiful cottage by the lake, trips to the Rockies, a condo in Belize, or whatever your personal dream may be. Simply put, the lie is that it’s all about you (or me).
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against financial freedom. I have a financial planner – two, in fact – and a financial plan (sort of). I would love to be financially free and I have taken some steps towards that goal. I have received some sound business advice for which I am grateful. But I also recognize that no matter how well I plan, I’m not really in control. First of all, as the Apostle James pointed out years ago (James 4:13-17) my plan may not work exactly as I hope. Secondly, even if it does, what ultimate satisfaction will it bring me?
There’s nothing wrong with dreams – we need them. God put the capacity for desires and longings into our hearts. But the Devil’s lie from the beginning is that you can only be happy when you are your own God, when you get to call the shots, to make the choices, to have it all your way (Genesis 3:1-7) The irony is that if we live this way, we may have enjoyment for a short time but in the end it will all be dust and ashes (Luke 12:13-34). It’s good to enjoy the pleasures of life. But you can only truly appreciate these pleasures when you realize that your life is not your own, that you belong to God, that you were created to bring Him joy, and that all these pleasures are gifts from His hands.
I have desires and longings too. I love to ride my bike, to play my guitar, to spend quality time with my wife, my children and my granddaughter. I enjoy time at the cottage, travelling, camping. But in the end, if I fill my life with these things in the absence of God, they leave me empty. That’s because I’ve learned that what I was made for is to seek God’s face, to live in the light of His presence, to sense His nearness, to be involved in seeing people respond to God’s love and come alive in Him, to make an eternal difference in someone else’s life, to see His Kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
Freedom 55? Why not freedom 25 – or 35 – or 95? True freedom has nothing to do with an age, and not even much to do with finances. Yes, I want to be financially free because I’d love to have more time to invest in activities that build the Kingdom – but I also recognize that even if I was a multi-millionaire, I wouldn’t necessarily be any more free than I am today. I am free when I am fully assured of God’s forgiveness and acceptance, fully confident in God’s goodness, fully surrendered to His purposes, fully engaged in His calling on my life. That’s the kind of freedom I want to seek.