The Most Important Lessons
My father did a great job of imparting everyday life skills to me growing up, but he didn’t really prepare me for the weighty issues of life–that is, my relationship with the Lord, my struggle with sin, and my interactions with other people.
It could be tempting to believe that your most important job is to prepare your kids with practical strategies for life. And what could be more practical than money?
While conversations about paychecks, budgets, mortgages, and investments are necessary and good to have with your children, they must not be more significant or more frequent than the “big-picture” gospel conversations that you have with your sons and daughters every day.
Here are four theological principles—applied to money—that you need to impart to your children:
1. At the center of the universe is a God of incalculable glory.
The existence that dominates the universe is not ours, but God’s. It is this perspective that must shape—or for some of us, reshape—the way we think about money. Life is not first about our wants, desires, dreams, purposes, expectations, or plans. Life is about God’s will, God’s purpose, God’s pleasure, and God’s glory. We must not, and cannot, look at money separately from the ultimate reality of life, the existence of God. We were created by God according to his wise design and for his wise purpose. Our lives don’t belong to us to use as we please. Because we were created by God, we belong to God, and because our money belongs to God, we don’t have the right to use and invest it however we please.
Addressing the issue of money and understanding money problems don’t begin with money and budget information; they begin with surrender. You and I will never use money the way it was meant to be used and we will never break disastrous money habits if we are not living in light of the fact that life is not about us. The world wasn’t first created to be a vehicle for realizing our personal definition of happiness. Money wasn’t created for the sole purpose of bringing into our lives all the things we crave. If we don’t start with surrender, even if we’re not in debt, we will use money in a way that God never intended.
In this way maybe many of us have more money problems than we realize. We think we’re okay because we are able to pay the price of our pleasures, but we’re not okay, because what shapes our money matters is a spirit of ownership rather than a spirit of surrender. The first step in money sanity is surrendering to the glory of one greater than you.
Every day, millions of us are seduced into asking money to do for us what only God can do.
2. We live in a world terribly broken by sin.
We will fail to properly understand money and the money problems that ensnare us if we ignore or minimize the fact that we live in a world so broken by sin that it does not function in any dimension in the way that God originally intended. In this broken world, money is not just used; it is misused. Money temptations greet us every day. Money lies are told to us every day. Money is presented to us as the savior that it can never be. Every day, millions of us are seduced into asking money to do for us what only God can do.
But the brokenness is not just external; it is internal. Sin is first a matter of the heart. It changes the way we think and what we desire. It alters what we desire and what we worship. Sin causes us to be more controlled by what we want than by what God has commanded. And, sadly, sin turns all of us into idol worshipers, who put things in the creation in the place only the Creator should inhabit in our hearts. And there are few idols more powerful than money.
Perhaps we get ourselves into deep and seemingly hopeless debt because we haven’t taken sin, both external and internal, seriously. Maybe we are too easily tricked into thinking that money will do for us what it was never intended to do—we haven’t taken seriously that we live in a world where we are greeted with the Tempter’s lies every day. Has a constant recognition of the power of remaining sin protected you from money deception, seduction, and misuse?
3. God offers us his heart and life-transforming grace.
We live in a world where sin exists, but we also live in a world where grace abounds. God sent his Son to live, die, and rise again so that you and I would have everything we need to live, love, and serve as God intended between the “already” of our conversion and the “not yet” of our final kingdom. The reality of ever-present grace is so encouraging because our sin isn’t just an environmental issue; it’s more significantly a matter of the heart. I may be able to escape money temptation on a certain day, but I have no ability to escape my own heart. You see, it’s always the sin inside me that makes the temptation outside me so hard to faithfully resist.
The work of grace is heart change, and since heart change is the only way our behavior changes in a lasting way, God’s grace offers us the only hope of real change when it comes to our personal finances. There is no mountain of debt so big that God’s grace isn’t bigger. There is no money-problem pit so deep that God’s grace isn’t deeper. As we face money problems, we don’t need to panic, we don’t need to be paralyzed by fear, we don’t have to deny reality to get some peace, we don’t have to relieve our consciences by shifting the blame, and we don’t have to cynically abandon hope. We can face our money issues with hope not because we are wise or able, but because God is, and he offers us his forgiving, rescuing, and transforming grace.
Because God’s grace carries with it a message of fresh starts and new beginnings, we don’t have to give in or give up. We can resist temptation. We can confess the idolatry of our hearts. We can give ourselves to new and better habits. We can say no to fear and rest in the presence and power of our Lord. Getters can become givers. Controllers can live lives of surrender. We can climb out of debt. God’s grace opens the door to a whole new relationship with money for each of us, not because we are good and deserve it, but because God is that good, and he offers us grace that is that powerful. Has your trust in God’s grace empowered you to address wrong money habits and give yourself to a brand-new money lifestyle?
4. We were created to live for something bigger than ourselves.
I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the importance of this piece of a Christian worldview and it’s application to the world of money. As sinners, we all share the same problem. We stick ourselves in the middle of our world, and we make life all about us. And often without knowing it, we want God to finance what we think will bring us pleasure, comfort, and happiness. When God seems to finance our pleasures, we praise him, and when he doesn’t, we tend to question his goodness and back away from pursuit of him.
Few of us would be so arrogant as to say that everything in creation was made for us to use as we wish, but in ways that are subtle or not so subtle we live as though that’s what we think. The core of financial sanity is knowing that our money doesn’t belong to us but is just another thing in our lives, given to us by God to be used for his purpose and pleasure.
This article is adapted from Redeeming Money: How God Reveals and Reorients Our Hearts by Paul David Tripp.
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