We can spend countless hours reading books, websites, and using other financial resources in our pursuit of making wise financial decisions. When it comes to our finances, there are a lot of factors to consider, and at the end of each day we want to be able to say that we saved enough, gave the right amount, had the right insurance coverage, did not pay too much in taxes, etc. Unfortunately, in the midst of the often complex decision-making process, we can veer away from focusing on wise stewardship, and consciously or subconsciously let how others might view us creep in. Our personal financial decisions (and satisfaction with them) become a product of a tendency to compare ourselves to the proverbial Jones’.
You may think, I’m a pretty down-to-earth person. I don’t think I’m buying things just to impress the neighbors. But this problem hits us on many levels – and sometimes in ways we don’t expect. Let me share a struggle a friend of mine recently approached me with.
His job with a large international organization required meeting with affluent executives and others in positions of influence and power. The problem was that he would occasionally need to drive them to and from the airport and to various functions. His late model Honda Accord, though cost effective, was not necessarily the best means of transportation for his position. Ironically, my friend could afford a luxury car (without impeding on other financial goals such as giving), however he was fearful of what others would say and how this would impact his reputation at his church. He was known for promoting wise stewardship, so how could he drive a luxury automobile?
We discussed this issue at length and my challenge to him was twofold. First, any spending decision should be weighed in light of its impact on other financial areas, but more importantly it should address the question, "What does God want me to do with His money?" Second, I asked my friend to consider how much he was allowing the opinion of others to affect his decision on what to drive. How would he feel about the decision if he went to a church where everyone drove luxury cars? Or, better yet, if he attended a much less affluent church where even their family’s minivan would be seen as a luxury car?
After pondering these two questions, he realized he was allowing others and their possible opinions of him to direct his decision-making rather than God’s viewpoint on his decision. He was subconsciously comparing himself to the Jones’ – in his case it was not about keeping up with them but about not getting ahead of them!
Not unlike my friend, many of us "feel good" about our stewardship as long as we fit the mold of those around us. However, we must never let the opinions of others take priority over God’s perspective of our financial decisions. Ask yourself, "What does God want me to do with His money?" He will answer your spending questions.
My friend did make the decision to purchase the "luxury" car and did so joyfully -- not out of guilt -- after seeking God’s guidance and developing a proper perspective. That perspective included his employer’s expectation that my friend’s compensation was generous enough to provide a car for business use when necessary.
Who is guiding your financial decision making – the Jones’ or the One who owns it all?
Knowing the Truth about God’s perspective on managing wealth is critical to practicing sound stewardship. In subsequent articles, we will explore the truth about what money is and is not from a Biblical perspective.
The National Planning Group of Ronald Blue & Co. is a unique division within RB&Co. that serves the everyday steward - For more information you can visit their website: www.everydaysteward.com.