Friday, July 15, 2005

Money $$$ Bucks

This is another one of those topics that so quickly becomes awkward when you bring it up in a conversation. The most frequent arguments in family and business are about money. It is deemed impolite to inquire about someone’s financial status, to ask how much something cost, or to reveal too much about your own bank account. Why? These days we actually try to hide our financial status, and poverty as well as wealth carries some stigma with it. That makes no sense! Surely we are not that shallow as to judge a person by their personal belongings, or the number of zeros in their bank account. Or are we that paranoid that as soon as we get something of value, we believe others will want to strip us of it? Perhaps we think that if the unhealthy condition of our finances were truly known, people would think less of us, or be hesitant to trust us. I have no idea, but we certainly lack an openness on this topic in our society.

There is a power that we have given to money: it rules much of our lives and I believe this is neither biblical nor healthy, in fact, it looks an awful lot like idolatry. I have never concerned myself too much about money – there has always been enough for us to live. Sometimes we have lived with plenty, other times we have just scraped by to pay off the bills, but there was always enough. I do not make much money, but I do not spend much either. I lead a simple life (thanks to my Mennonite ancestors for instilling this in me). My husband is a business manager and spends his whole day crunching numbers and he has recently challenged me to get more involved in planning for our future financially. Now I have no problem balancing a chequebook or budgeting, but I have always maintained that money doesn’t interest me that much so I balked at his suggestion, feeling that I lacked the passion and the expertise. But in the last month, the ugly truth has been revealed: I am afraid of it.

Having little means there is little to account for, virtually nothing to risk, and a minimal amount of knowledge and effort required on my part. Having much means I am responsible for investing and dealing with it in a wise and timely manner, for much is at stake. I am reading the story of Abraham again and this forefather of faith lived no “simple” life. He had great wealth, travelled widely, embarked on numerous business and personal adventures, encountered kings and armies, took many risks, made some really big mistakes, but in the end, was faithful with what God had entrusted to him and managed to increase in every realm. I do believe that anyone who has accomplished anything great has been someone not afraid to take some risks and shoulder some big responsibility.

So how has my attitude toward money changed? While I still believe in wise and prudent fiscal spending, I am realizing that the phrase, “I can’t afford it” is often based in fear and should more accurately be stated as “I’m not willing to take the risk.” Some things are obviously bad risks. There are, however, some risks that are worth taking. Not all debt is evil, and it can in fact be used to invest in some very worthwhile ventures that will pay for themselves many times over. I must stop separating money from the rest of my life like some insane relative that no one wants to talk about. What I do with my financial resources has a huge impact on my life and I must develop wisdom and exercise faith just like I do with any other situation. I must open my mind to develop knowledge, wisdom, experience, and a passion for dealing with my resources in a way indicative of my values and personality. This is a little scary, I will admit, but the problem is that many of us have been lulled into a false state of small-minded security by our social systems and bi-weekly paycheques. There is no such thing as job security or guaranteed investments! Every dollar is a gift as much as every talent I have. I do not dare bury these gifts in the ground in the hope that they will maintain their value. Like muscles, finances not used will become atrophied and begin to lose their power.

I don’t care if you have little or much – there is something significant you could be doing with it right now instead of just seeking to stretch it out to last as long as possible. Talk to any great person of faith, or any successful businessman and they will tell you the same thing: there is no significant change without significant risk.

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