Have you ever wondered why SMI founder Austin Pryor named the company based on 2 Timothy 1:7? I certainly did. When I joined SMI in 2012, I had been involved in stewardship ministry for over 20 years, yet had never heard that verse mentioned in relation to managing money. Ever. So why make it the cornerstone verse for a company providing investment advice to Christians?
The answer dates back to Austin’s time on staff with Cru in the early 1970s. One of the popular handouts used in the ministry at the time was “The Paul Brown Letter.” Ministry founder Bill Bright had written the letter to a new Christ-follower who wanted counsel on how to discern God’s will for his life. The answer, Bright wrote, could be found in following what he called “the sound-mind principle” of Scripture:
In 2 Timothy 1:7 we are told that “God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” The sound mind referred to in this verse means a well-balanced mind: a mind that is under the control of the Holy Spirit, “remade” according to Romans 12:1-2.
There is a vast difference between the inclination of the natural or carnal man to use “common sense” and that of the spiritual man to follow the “sound-mind principle.” [The former], for understanding, depends upon the wisdom of man without benefit of God’s wisdom and power; the latter, having the mind of Christ, receives wisdom and guidance from God moment by moment through faith.
Are your decisions as a Christian based upon unpredictable emotions and chance circumstances, the “common sense” of the natural man? Or do you make your decisions according to the “sound-mind principle of Scripture?”
“My thinking in 1990 when I launched SMI,” Austin explained to me, “was that the verse not only points to the Resource we have as Christians to make Spirit-led decisions, but also mentions ‘fear’ (which many have when it comes to investing and which we hope to help them overcome) as well as ‘self-control’ or ‘self-discipline’ (which is a requisite for successful investing).”
Bright’s letter went on to say,
...a Christian who has yielded his life fully to Christ can be assured of sanctified reasoning, and a balanced, disciplined mind. Also, God has promised to give His children wisdom according to James 1:5-7. Further, we can know with “settled and absolute assurance” that when we pray according to the will of God, He will always hear and grant our petitions. (1 John 5:14, 15.) Since the Christian is to live by faith, and faith comes through an understanding of the Word of God, it is impossible to over-emphasize the importance of Scripture in the lives of those who would know and do the will of God.
But note a word of caution: The “sound-mind principle” is not valid unless certain factors exist.
There must be no unconfessed sin in your life; following 1 John 1:9 takes care of that: “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Your life must be fully dedicated to Christ according to Romans 12:1-2, and you must be filled with the Holy Spirit in obedience to the command of Ephesians 5:18. As in the case of our salvation, we are filled and controlled by the Spirit through faith.
How’s that for a guide to discerning God’s will for your life — and as Austin has applied it, to taking a truly biblical approach to your finances? Is prayer an integral part of your financial decision-making process? And before praying for financial wisdom, have you considered whether there is any unconfessed sin in your life?
When I started in stewardship ministry nearly 30 years ago, the Parable of the Talents had the greatest influence on my thinking about money and material things. The truth that God owns it all and I’m a steward of everything he has generously entrusted to my care struck me (and still does) as completely counter-cultural, with far-reaching ramifications.
But now that I’m further along in my journey, 2 Timothy 1:7 is challenging me in fresh ways. I pray that it might challenge and encourage you as well.