Monday, June 27, 2011

How to Create a Healthy Relationship with Money

"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

I Timothy 6:10
We all know that money in itself is not evil; it is the love of money that causes problems. There is nothing wrong with having money, but when we put our wealth and possession before God, when we feel empty and fearful because our money for the week is spent, when we envy a friend who always seems to have new clothes or the latest gadgets, when our grip on money is so tight that we can't even spare a quarter to a man at Aldi who needs a shopping cart yet we easily drop half our weekly allowance on "stuff" for our kids, then we know we have an unhealthy relationship with money.

Yeah, that's me. And, yes, I did turn that man down when he asked me for a quarter. I am blushing now as I type this because of my stinginess, selfishness, and perverse views of money. But, thankfully, God has blessed me with a generous husband, who rightly shamed me for not helping someone in need, and who reminds me every day in subtle ways that the money we have is not ours; we are only stewards of what God has chosen to bestow to us. Thankfully, God is changing me, too; He is transforming my mindset about money.

"Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless."

Ecclesiastes 5:10

When I was younger, I never worried about money. I was blessed to have everything I needed, and any money I made working was for my personal use. I didn't save my money but spent it frivolously on entertainment, books, and new clothes. Spending money felt good. It gave me a sense of independence knowing that I could buy whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I was very fortunate, I know.

But when I got married and no longer had my parents' financial backing, my feelings about money shifted, especially when I stopped teaching to stay home and raise our children. That is when I began to realize my dependence on money for security. Without my own income, I felt dependent, weak, and fearful. On days when I felt the loneliness of the stay-at-home mom, I would drive to Target just to spend money, somehow hoping to feel better about myself. Yes, there was instant gratification after making my purchases, but as soon as I got home, I would feel guilty. Call it buyer's remorse if you want, but it was more than that; I knew I was trying to fill a void inside that only God could fill. Still, instead of turning to the Lord, I would turn to shopping.

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'"
Hebrews 13:5
After spending some money that my husband had allotted for us to buy new bikes, I knew my spending habits needed to change. My security lay in having money and being able to use that money for things I honestly believed my children needed. No, I wasn't spending our money on things for me but for the kids. Have you done that? It was easy for me to justify spending money on them; they could always use more clothes, books, and educational toys, I thought.

Can you relate? Isn't that what moms do? We want more for our kids; we want them to have it better than we did; we want to give them what every other kid has. They deserve it, right? Wrong! Our children deserve our unconditional love and their basic needs (food, water, shelter, and clothing) being met. That is it. Everything else is fluff. And when we give them fluff all the time, they come to expect it until there is no more fluff to buy because they already have it all. (Have you seen that Veggie Tales with the StuffMart?)

God is changing my mindset about money and fluff. Granted it is a slow process, but I feel liberated knowing that He gives me everything I need.

These are some of the lessons that I am learning as a mom and as a steward of our family's household income. I hope that you can benefit from them too.

(1) Learn contentment. We have more than we need and then some. Our bookshelves are overflowing, the toy box is filled to the brim, and our closets can't hold anymore clothes. Before I open my wallet, I need to stop and seriously consider my motive for making the purchase. Am I buying it to feel better about myself? Do my children really need it, or am I trying to buy their happiness? Instead of buying things for our kids, spend time with them. They will undoubtedly remember and cherish that extra time on the swing set or special one-on-one conversation with you more than a new toy, video game, or outfit.

(2) Give it away. If you can't let go of your money to help someone in need, then you have no business with it. It isn't yours anyway. As I have been trying to teach my two-year-old, "it's God's money." I need to remember this counsel myself and give generously to others. Find opportunities each week when you can give to others, even if it's just a quarter at Aldi. Fix a meal for a new mommy, donate to a worthy cause, take a friend to lunch, clean out those closets and toy boxes and give it away. Being generous with your money and possessions helps you appreciate it more and teaches your children how to have a healthy financial perspective. Plus, when you do, you serve others, and, in turn, God is glorified.

(3) Trust in the Lord. Instead of trusting in money and possessions that are here today and gone tomorrow, I need to place my trust solely in the Lord. When we do we will discover that empty void inside of us has been filled. It is liberating to know that God will provide everything we need. He promises never to leave or forsake us.

Do you have a healthy relationship with money? What steps have you taken to relinquish its hold on you? I would love for you to share in the comment space below.

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