My husband and I have been talking a lot about money lately. Not that it’s ever anyone’s favourite subject, but it hasn’t been as painful as you might think. For most of us living in North America, few thoughts occupy our minds so much as money – how to make it, spend it, save it, and so on. While it’d be nice not to have to think or worry about money altogether, it’s just not possible. As my husband likes to say, “It’s not about the money…it’s ABOUT the money!”
For our part, the impetus for all this conversation is the prospect of me going back to work – back to teaching. Since we’ll have more disposable income (in theory), we want to ensure we’re making good decisions – really thinking about how to use our money wisely. Now I’m sure this all sounds very straightforward and logical, but you’d be surprised at the number of people who have no idea where their money is going. How can I be so sure? Because it was precisely the way we were living, up until a few years ago.
It was strange because I’d always thought we were doing okay – that we were fairly astute. For the first 10 years or so of marriage, we lived on a strict budget. But then as our income grew, we got lazy and careless. To make matters worse, a few years ago we decided to renovate our home. After the demolition phase, the contractor went bankrupt and we lost quite a bit of money. It was a wake-up call. Now we’re making a concerted effort to not only be more aware of where our money is going but to also be more intentional in our spending and giving. In short, we want to be better stewards of what God has given us.
How do we go about doing this? How can we be sure our financial actions are good and pleasing to God? What principles can guide our thoughts and decisions? A few ideas to consider:
• Are our decisions just? Does the way we’re using money make sense, not only to us but also in the larger scheme of things? Who ultimately benefits? Are we making the world a more just place?
• Are we being wise and prudent? Is this the best use of our money? Does it help to build up family life, the Church, or the larger community?
• Are we being generous with God, recognizing that He can never be outdone in generosity? Does it hurt just a little bit when we write that cheque each week?
• Are we detached from possessions? Do we control our spending, or does it control us?
There’s a lot of emphasis on mindfulness these days – being intentional in our words and actions. When it comes to money, mindfulness is akin to prudence, being wise and careful in our decisions. Just as we are mindful in other things, we must learn to be mindful in our spending – to be intentional about where our money is going, and where it’s not going. Which, by the way, doesn’t make us rigid or less generous. Far from it. When we are mindful and purposeful in our giving, we are more generous, for we know precisely what it costs us. Remember the poor widow in the Gospels? I don’t imagine she walked into the temple that day and, willy-nilly, decided to drop her last coin into the basket. She knew what she was offering and trusted in God’s ability to provide for her.
Likewise, if we find ourselves better off than most people (i.e. most of us in North America), we have a responsibility to use money well. Our financial ‘good fortune’ isn’t merely good fortune; it’s God’s providence for us. But He’s also counting on us to do our part – to consider the Church and the less fortunate in our decisions. Are we planned in our giving? Do we help take care of those who are less able, be it our parents, a neighbour, a friend, or the stranger in our midst?
I’m always struck by the example of the early Church, how they kept things in common and took care of one another. What a simple way to live and work, being of one mind and one heart (Acts 2: 42-47). In whatever they did, their first concern was making sure everyone’s needs were met, out of justice and love. For followers of Christ, this has always been the way – what God asks of us. Our way of life is different now, but the Christian attitude remains: we are called to love and care for one another.
Money is the currency of the world, but God’s currency is love. While it’s certainly important to use money well, it needn’t consume all our thoughts. As Christians, we know that money isn’t the greatest good nor the ultimate purpose of our lives. It’s a means, not our ultimate end. Money can only buy what money can buy – not love or happiness or eternal life. If there’s one thing we can ‘bank on,’ that we can know for certain, it’s that God will continue to call us to greater and greater generosity, to greater and greater detachment. We must work for the things that will last, storing up treasure in heaven. For even if we are poor in earthly things, trusting in God’s plan for us means that we will always be rich in love.
– Kelley Holy