When I was living at home with my parents, life was comfortable. My parents didn’t spoil my siblings and me, but they provided handsomely for us. It wasn’t until I got married and left home that it dawned upon me…there’s a ceiling to what Edric and I have, financially speaking, and it isn’t very high.
We started off simply as a young couple and for the first time, I began to compare myself with others. Edric and I couldn’t afford luxuries like travel, buying new cars, eating out, or alot of personal shopping.
We were both corporate people so the prospect of amassing wealth was a far off dream as we were in the beginning stages of our careers. Even though I appreciated how hard Edric worked, there were occasions when I paid attention to the disparity between what I grew up with and what I now had in marriage. And although I didn’t think I had a heart problem when it came to money, the reality was I believed that having more money would make me (us) happier.
Thankfully, God used that stage in my life to expose my dependence upon money for security. Those early years of marriage were humbling as I watched my siblings and peers enjoy material things I desired for myself. Yet having less than I hoped to have was spiritually beneficial.
Edric and I realized that we didn’t need a lot to be happy. In fact, those difficult years turned out to be some of the most romantic memories! The secret to joy was contentment. When I stopped comparing my financial status to others and turned my attention to what I had, I saw the goodness of the Lord in my life — my wonderful, hard-working and loving husband, beautiful children, my health, the ability to work, a happy home, harmonious relationships, ministry, and most of all, God Himself. I accepted those years of spiritual pruning as protection against greed and materialism.
Since God allotted for Edric and me to struggle financially, I believe He purposed it for our character growth. I honestly don’t think we were ready for the stewardship of financial wealth because our perspective on money was immature. We saw money as something to serve our own aims. If we had more we would have spent more on ourselves and attached our sense of self-worth and identity to money.
Thankfully, God was always faithful. We never went hungry. God also assured me that He would provide for Edric and me. Provision didn’t always mean material wealth but I knew I didn’t have to worry about our future because God was our Father.
Psalm 34:10 tells us, “The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing.”
As God continued to increase our financial capacity, there came a point when we were preparing to build our home. This plan coincided with the efforts of our church to build a new training and worship center. One Sunday service, a guest speaker spoke on giving to God. Stirred by the message, Edric decided to write a check to support the building fund. Because of the amount he chose to give, he tearfully surrendered our dream to build our own home. Yet God assured him, build my house and I will build yours. Sure enough, about two years later, God provided above and beyond what Edric had written on that check and we were able to finish our house!
Money is so often a test, whether in lack or abundance. And sometimes more so when it is abundant! The Bible tells us, “…Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” Luke 12:15 NASB
Although money doesn’t make us more important or more special, it does have that sneaky way of making us feel like this is true. Whether a little or plenty, we all have the tendency to pursue it above our pursuit of God. Perhaps this is why the wise King Solomon wrote, “…Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the LORD?” Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:8-9 NASB
Since money competes with God’s place in our hearts, the first cure is to fall more in love with God rather than money. Luke 16:13 tells us that we cannot serve both God and money because we will end up loving the one and hating the other.
The second cure is to give. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 tells us, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 NASB
Generosity is a good gauge for our heart’s attitude towards money. Author and speaker, Craig Groeschel, beautifully put it when he said that the pursuit of God over money will make us “strangely content” and “irrationally generous.”
Randy Alcorn reminds us that “Too often we assume that God has increased our income to increase our standard of living, when his stated purpose is to increase our standard of giving. (Money, Possessions and Eternity)
I am continually blessed by a couple I know who sets aside a giving fund from their monthly income. And whenever God prods them to give to a person or an organization, they willingly do so, having allocated the money beforehand for whatever or whomever God should convict them to be generous towards.
We also need to remember that generosity is a condition of the heart not an ability reserved only for the wealthy. A poor and kind African man once told a missionary, “no one is too poor to give nor too rich to receive.”
The third cure is remembering that God owns everything and we are His stewards. King David declared, “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name…”1 Chronicles 29:11-13 NASB
When Edric didn’t understand stewardship, he went into near bankruptcy. His mentality used to be, “I earned this. I worked hard for this. I can spend my money on what I want to.” (He has shared this in public.) It wasn’t until a loving friend corrected his mindset that he realized he doesn’t own anything. He is just a steward of the resources God has entrusted him with, namely his time, talents, and treasures.
The fourth cure is to remain simple. Just because we can pay for an item or a service that is more expensive doesn’t mean we should. When I wrote an article about why I don’t buy designer clothing, bags, or shoes it wasn’t because they have no appeal to me. They are beautiful things indeed! But the price at which they come by is unconscionable when so many people have needs around us.
Do I go shopping and try my best to look put together? Do I still look for quality goods? Of course! Yet I want to quote another insight from Randy Alcorn: “Abundance isn’t God’s provision for me to live in luxury. It’s his provision for me to help others live. God entrusts me with his money not to build my kingdom on earth, but to build his kingdom in heaven.”
So does money make us happy? Yes and no. It doesn’t make us happy when we look to it as the source of our happiness. But it can make us happy when:
1. we love God more than money and find contentment in Him.
2. we cheerfully give when God leads us to.
3. we understand that we are merely stewards because God owns everything.
4. we choose to be simple so we can spend less on ourselves and bless others more.
In short, money “makes us happy” when we don’t use it to serve our own purposes (purposes which will never fully satisfy), but do use it to serve God’s purposes, which will give us infinite joy!