It’s true. Money, in the grand scheme of things isn’t that important. No, you’re not crazy, you did just read that sentence on a blog about money, written by a guy that is changing his and his wife’s lifestyle as a result of money’s effect. Don’t believe me? Okay, imagine that someone gave you a million dollars, no strings attached. What would your reaction be? If you have a pulse, it would probably be something like this:
And then, after you calmed down a bit, you’d probably say something like, “Now I can go/do/see/visit <blank>.” And that blank is super critical. The blank is why you got excited. It’s not the money itself that attracts people, because you can’t really do a whole lot with giant wads of cash. You could build a Slinky race track, or maybe if you had a ton of cash, you could hide behind it and pop up to scare people. But for the most part, it kind of just sits there. No, what people get excited about is what money allows them to do. It allows them to go on trips, have nice houses, attend good schools, and so on. We feel that those things will make us happy, and many times, they do to an extent. But what about the people that don’t have the big piles of cash? Are they just doomed to a life of constant unhappiness? And what about the “1%” that everyone’s always mad at for being so rich? Are they just automatically happy because they get to go wherever they want, whenever they want? I don’t think so. I don’t think that you need to have swimming pools full of money in order to do something purposeful. And on the other hand, I don’t think that having monogrammed toilet paper (Yeah, I looked it up. Wouldn’t you?) automatically means you’re living a fulfilled life.
So, if having money doesn’t equal a rich life, and not having money doesn’t mean missing out on what really matters, what does it mean? It means that all this money stuff — the budgets, the spreadsheets, the accounts, the pie charts, the podcasts, the books, and on and on — can’t be the end game. If piling it up doesn’t inherently help us, then we need to have a reason for doing so. After all, if we can still live meaningful lives while at the same time living paycheck to paycheck and just filing for bankruptcy every so often, why wouldn’t we do that? Here’s why: money is one of the few things in our life with the power to consistently rob us of joy. Money robs us of joy because it distracts us from God. When we’re in trouble with money, it keeps us up at night. It’s on our mind constantly, never letting us live fully in the moment. It affects our decisions with friends, our relationship with romantic partners, even our performance at work. When we don’t know how the light bill is going to get paid this month, we forget that God has created and sustained 750 bajillion other human beings before He got to us. Sometimes, we even forget that the bill was paid two months ago, even though we didn’t know how it was going to be paid then, either. Jesus knows His creation very well, and He knows how prone we are to focus on our bank account instead of what’s really important: our relationship with Him. In the Sermon on the Mount, He said,
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. […] No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. […] Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” – Matthew 6:19-21, 24, 31-32 (ESV)
There you have it. The living God, the Creator of the universe, knows that we get hungry. We don’t have to remind him! So worrying day in and day out about having enough money to eat at the expense of joy is pointless, because we have a God that is very much not dependent on our money.
So, if money isn’t important, why is it important? Why are there so many blogs, books, and businesses built on talking about it? Because proper management of it removes the hindrance to enjoying your life. If you don’t owe your money to anyone else, you don’t have to do the “human” thing and get all worked up over whether there will be any left over for yourself. You’re free to do whatever you feel called to do, or go wherever you feel called to go. When you sort out your finances, you clear out the unimportant, temporary annoyances to make room for important, meaningful pursuits. Imagine for a minute that you had no payments to anyone, for anything. Your house and everything in it is paid for, no one’s waiting for your phone call on payday, and your income is yours. Did you just get that happy chill? That’s either because you left the window open or because you realized that now you’re free to do whatever you want. You don’t have to keep your head down, fretting about every item that finds its way into your shopping cart and wondering what buying it will force you to give up. You aren’t enslaved to your job, and your time becomes just as much of a tool as your money. Want to take a day off, even if it’s unpaid, so you can go help at your church’s food pantry? There’s no car payment chaining you to your desk, do it! Have you been wanting to start a business for years, but couldn’t afford to go part-time at your career job in order to make it work? If you’re on solid financial footing, you can make that leap. Instead of spending day in and day out obsessing over how to earn more, spend less, pay off debt, and build your savings, you can focus on family. On experiences. On giving. On your spiritual walk. On stuff that’s important. But that all can only happen once you address the problems now, so you don’t have to worry about them later.
Simply put, in the long term, money is not important. That’s why in the short term, it needs to be important.