The Beatles used to sing, “Money can’t buy me love.” Nowadays, I’m not so sure we believe them! Money for me has been a journey. I have had times of tremendous abundance and times of deep scarcity. My journey started in my childhood, as so many things do.
I grew up in what I now realize was a pretty plush lifestyle. As a kid, it was all I knew. It would be a few years before I realized not everyone had a large home, travelled extensively, had family and relatives with recognizable names and/or businesses and who socialized with people the world viewed as prestigious.
It wouldn’t be until my parents divorced and we moved into a much smaller home in a blue-collar community a few years later that I began to become acquainted with this idea of scarcity. I became quite aware of all the things that were no longer easily in reach, from clothes to restaurants and travelling experiences. I grieved what I could no longer have, failing to see all the wonderful things I didhave. It was a time of hurt, bitterness and fear.
Now keep in mind I still lived far more comfortably than so many in this world. My mother worked hard to provide for us and she did an admirable job. Her incredible example still inspires me today. But not having as much took me to a place of fear that only God was able to help me work through. It would take time and experience for me to understand money is neither good nor bad; rather it’s mirror reflecting my character in how I choose to use it.
That process has taught me so many lessons! The biggest one is so simple and yet can be so easy to slip through my fingers if I’m not careful: I have many, many blessings in my life, and very few of them have anything to do with money. My most treasured moments are centered around people, not things. I don’t mourn the loss of a hovercraft to play around on, fun though it was. I do mourn the loss of my grandmother’s smile and her tremendous practical wisdom. There’s no comparison between the two.
I’ve also learned that The Beatles were right after all; money can’t buy you love … or joy, or happiness, or fulfillment, or anything else the advertisers try to delude us into believing. I have known some very, very successful people in my lifetime, some of whom are current, close friends. I have known people of very modest means, some of whom are current, close friends. What I have seen time and time again is that happiness, joy, peace and meaning are never found in financial success. Rather, those incredible qualities come from how we approach life, how closely we are tied to our fellow man and to God.
I have seen rich and poor alike give generously, love generously and live a life that draws in the admiration of others. I have also seen incredibly stingy, grasping, selfish people wrapped in a cloak of misery. Again, money wasn’t the common denominator; character was. At the end of the day, it’s not what we have but who we are that matters. Proverbs 17:24 tells us, “The perceptive find wisdom in their own front yard; fools look for it everywhere but right here.”
I share this because I find the holidays are one of those times it’s easy to buy into the lie that we need to spend lot of money to achieve that perfect Christmas morning, or that perfect feeling of family and sentiment. We go into debt and set ourselves back financially for months, and for what? A plastic jeep some kid will drive for maybe a few months? A computer that will be obsolete in another 2-3 years? The latest gadget that will quickly be replaced by the next, newer gadget? I’ve been guilty of it myself, wracked with misery over what I couldn’t provide versus remembering all I can and do provide to those I love, not just on Christmas morning but every day of my life.
This Christmas, I want to really focus in on what matters: my family, the people I appreciate and love, and the true joy that comes from being with them. I want to remind them to do the same. I don’t want to waste energy and effort looking for what I wish I had, or what I want to have eventually, or focusing on the pieces that are missing, which is so easy for me to do! I want to take time to intentionally acknowledge what I dohave, really grabbing a hold of the blessings and joy all around me. How about you?
For Further Thought: “Wealth is a crown for the wise; the effort of fools yields only foolishness,” (Proverbs 14:24). What are some ways you get tempted to make foolish choices with your money? What are the drivers behind it? How can you reach for wisdom instead?