The Trouble with Money

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Tim and I have a new pact–to keep our mouths shut about money.
No, it’s not because we have a bragging issue. We aren’t out living large, pimping our rides or promoting a highfalutin flashy lifestyle, our problem is the exact opposite. We’ve become somewhat obsessed it seems in justifying our modest OC life style.

Somewhere along the way we bought the lie that operating in the space of “just a little bit” poorer than our neighbors is how people want their pastors to live.

If you work in ministry there is a silent but overtly loud expectation of living  below average. God forbid anyone think the church actually pays their minister’s enough money to live in the community we actually minister to.

It wasn’t so bad when we were first married and lived in a condo, but when we moved to suburbia and bought a home in a nice neighborhood, both of us felt heavy burden from the moment we invited people in–this insidious pressure to justify and play down anything nice that we have.

Six years ago we bought a big screen TV. (Crazy huh?) It was a joint Christmas and anniversary gift to each other. I still remember writing the check out to my husband because it hurt a little. But that TV hurt more than my checkbook, that TV generated a storm of snarky comments.

I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “I guess the church must be doing pretty well with our tithe money if  you can afford that kind of picture”…and so on and so forth.

I think that’s when it first started–the first seed of angst and an OBLIGATION to explain our every dollar and sense to the world and even our family.
Oh, our new car?  That’s a gift. From God via our parents. Private school? Scholarships and more help from grandparents. Hawaii? A relative’s miles and grandpas time share. Oh my clothes?–thrift store.
Recently we sat at a restaurant with some old friends from out of town and I heard the two of us play that same old sad record again–mustering up the correct blend of  pastoral downtrodden humility.
But this time it made me a little sick.
Maybe it’s because they weren’t from around here and I had fresh ears to hear? But something deep within me just said “enough!”

Why, do I need to justify what we have?  I work. I’m not collecting disability, social security  or living on the backs of others. We aren’t in a religious organization that takes five offerings in one service–in fact we don’t even take an offering, we have boxes in the back if you feel like giving. We live in a modest home and my husband works six days a week, hustles like crazy to work extra performing weddings and is paid fairly for his time and energy.

And we are grateful. Enough said. EVER.

If my purpose is to give God the glory for his provision, then Amen and Amen, but the truth, is I don’t believe God loves me any more or less based on my financial success. So, yes, I thank God for my blessings–the entirety of them and  I thank God for his sustenance and provision, but I will not be trite or falsely humble about money anymore.

Instead,  I want to be known more for my generosity, not my stinginess, poverty or fear of having enough. I want to be known for trusting God when circumstances are volatile and I can’t see over the waves of fear.  I want to be known for my faith, however small and mustard seed-like it is as I point people towards God and trusting him.

I never thought I had a money problem because I don’t have a ton of money, but I realized I was just as caught up in the rat race justifying all the reasons why I wasn’t playing the game.
I think it’s time for us to put down the pious act and simply BE.

Wow. That feels good.

The truth is we live in an expensive place (like so many of you) and it’s not easy. Sometimes we struggle, sometimes we breathe a little easier, but often than not we live in the tension of the middle ground. Personally, I’m not shooting for a rich and indulgent lifestyle but I do hope for enough to avoid desperation. My goal is to save more than spend, pay cash vs charge and have enough to use our money as a tool to make a difference in the world–even if it’s small.

So if I hop back on the justification train about anything financial, gently (so gently) please tell me to zip it.  If I can’t afford something I’ll be honest, but I’m not explaining the math to you.

Maybe our money troubles aren’t so big after all, maybe the trouble with money is our broken thinking about it.

–Samantha

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