Sunday, December 30, 2012
New Year, New View of Money: Take the HInt
When pollsters asked American wage-earners a few years ago how much money they would need to earn to feel happy and secure, the answers they received were almost identical. Surprisingly, those answers had nothing to do with the amount the respondents already were earning.
Whether they lived at poverty level or among the extremely wealthy, folks all up and down the scale thought they would be satisfied if only they could earn about twenty percent more than they did then. Then came another surprise. The study revealed that once all basic human needs were cared for, increased income did not necessarily correspond with increased happiness.
In a television interview recently, Nick Cannon, the multi-talented husband of singer Mariah Carey, casually described wealth as "access to excess." Popular financial guru Dave Ramsey decries the foolishness of spending money we do not have, to purchase things we do not need, to impress people we do not like.
Jesus took a very practical approach to financial advising (Matt. 6:19-24). One can invest in earthly banks, he said, or one can invest in heavenly banks. The apostle Paul later explained that we make heavenly deposits each time we choose "to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share" (1 Tim. 6:18). Again no mention of percentages of income kept or shared.
Jesus also noted a difference between earthly and heavenly banks: treasures stored on earth are always at risk, whether from evildoers (thieves), tiny creatures (moths), or natural processes (rust). Only deposits made in heaven are truly guaranteed safe. The swaggering actor in a popular television commercial for investment gold looks into the camera and says: "I just feel so much more secure knowing that I own gold." His words entice us with implied promises but his promises are made of sand.
As we approach a new year, or even each new day, let us remember that everything belongs to God, that we are simply his stewards who must answer to him one day for our stewardship of his possessions. In this light, the real question facing us is not "How much must I give to others?" but rather "How much dare I spend on myself?"