My wife and I distinctly remember the time when we made a conscious decision to stop pursuing more money, more stuff, and a bigger and better lifestyle. God brought us to that point through a series of events at my work. At that time, about 8-9 years ago, I worked in materials management and made a real fine living. But promotions and pay raises never quite seemed to line up with what my boss was telling me I was worth to the company. After two years of logging 60+ hour weeks for the company, and pitiful pay raises, the Lord made it clear to me that chasing the American Dream was simply futile.
As Solomon put it, I was “chasing the wind.” Indeed, God was teaching me the lesson perhaps most needed in American churches and marriages today:
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this is also vanity (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
For my part, I committed to God to shun workaholism, which is a mere symptom of the love of money or prestige. No more 60+ hour work weeks. By His grace, I have kept this commitment (even in full-time ministry) and my life and marriage and family has been immeasurably blessed. Oh, how I wish more Christian couples would make such a commitment and stop chasing the wind!
Researchers for decades now have been telling us that money tops the list of reasons for divorce. In my humble experience, divorces within the church fare no better in this category. Though I realize the comments I am about to make will potentially irritate some people, I have seen enough American Dream Idolatry in the church to convince me we must begin to face this giant with biblical truth, come what may.
Whenever I have spent time with couples in distress, it has become clear to me that an astounding array of marital problems stem from a couples’ desire to either increase or sustain a certain lifestyle. Simply put, they are chasing the American Dream and sacrificing much, even marital harmony and biblical relationships and priorities, on the altar of mammon. Consider this short list of areas impacted by our philosophy of finances:
- Dual-income households are the norm among most Christian couples, but upon deep scrutiny, it is clear that most couples do not actually need a dual income to live a basic, comfortable life.
- The affect of implementing a disciplined budgeting process in the lives of most Christian couples is often staggering. It is disturbing how many couples in our churches really do not know where God’s money is going week-by-week!
- Christian mothers often lament having to work outside the home, but again, once a budget is in place and decisions to stop pursuing a certain lifestyle are made, it is clear that more mothers could stay home with children. Or, at minimum more mothers could spend much more time in their homes by working out-of-the-home or p/t.
- Christian husbands often are pushing their wives or “lording it over them” in this matter, insisting they work full-time. The reasons men are doing this are, again, not so much based in necessity as in want.
- Often the sheer quantity of extra-curricular activities Christian couples feel their children must be involved in add an enormous financial burden. And, extra financial burdens often lead to marriage woes.
- Educational decisions among Christian parents are also impacted in major ways by the financial situation and the lifestyle priorities chosen.
- I am amazed at how much money parents will spend on Day Care or pre-schools and other such things. Though I’m no certified financial planner, it hardly seems worth it to me. We must “count the cost,” dear friends.
- Our children are watching and learning, too. Consider what they ask for, what they dream of, what they most desire, and how they spend money that they earn or are given. Their financial inclinations mirror ours, dear parents!
All this makes me wonder: Why not drive older cars? Why not live in older or smaller homes? Why not eat out less? Why not take less expensive vacations, or mission-trip vacations? Why not buy clothes at consignment shops and bargain centers? Why not cancel the 400-channel TV packages? Why not buy a cheaper cell-phone service? The list goes on and on, doesn’t it?
My point here is not to tell you every single financial decision to make, or how to spend every dime. I am simply trying to show that priorities in our lives demonstrate themselves through our money habits. And, money habits can make or break our marriages and our homes!
If we truly “get” that God owns it all, then faithful stewardship becomes the driving ambition. Not more wealth or bigger homes. Not more comfort and ease. Not more busy activities that keep our families going in different directions.
Faithful stewardship of God’s resources for God’s glory. This will of necessity look much different than the typical American family. This will of necessity require a change of heart, mind and action of us. Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). It’s black and white. No middle ground, dear Christians! Which is it for you?
All those years ago, when I was in pursuit of money and the stuff it could buy, God showed me just how much I resembled the rich fool of Luke 12. I urge you to read Luke 12:13-20. Pray over it. Ask God’s Spirit to illuminate the text in your heart and mind. Pray He will grip you and show you where you may resemble this fool who “had it all” and wanted more.
Oh, God, money can have such a grip on our souls. In truth, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim 6:10). Money is destroying us from the foundation (the home) up. Please, Sovereign Lord, rescue us from this bondage we call “The American Dream.” Release Christian husbands and wives to trust You with every penny, for You own every penny already. Teach us, Lord Jesus, to be “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). For therein is freedom that shall once again put us on a path to Christ-exalting marriages and God-fearing children. Move in our hearts. Stir us to love You, not money. Help us as husbands and wives make decisions regarding working arrangements and finances based on one consuming goal – to honor Christ the King who is more valuable than all the world has to offer. Amen.