I recently read an advertisement promoting a program entitled “Financial Peace University”. The title caught my attention because peace is one of the by-products of what I hope we financial advisors deliver to our clients. We all know the stresses caused by the tension between our true needs versus our desires and what our personal cash flow affords.
What surprised me by the advertisement were the program’s sponsors. Four different churches were offering this seminar per this particular publication’s classified section. Churches offering a financial education program that promises peace! Are churches giving in and raising the red flag of surrender to the stress causers known as consumerism and materialism and giving up on the True Source of Peace?
Or is it that we are so sensitive and cynical that when the message from the pulpit is about proper Biblical money management, our interpretation is, “They just want us to give more money.”? Are clergy hoping that if they sponsor secular programs to help us get a grip on our personal finances, then they’ll be rewarded with increased giving in the offering plate? I am not so cynical as to believe that.
So, what is going on in peoples lives that churches feel compelled to call parishioners together to learn more about budgeting, debt management, investments, insurance, etc? I believe churches are legitimately trying to find resources beyond themselves to help parishioners better handle the problems brought on by poor financial planning and the stress that brings on our every day lives.
Do you ever get a not-quite-right feeling, an angst about how your financial life is going?
Do you ever say to yourself, “If only I made another $5,000 (or $10,000, or whatever)” my financial problems would go away.”?
Conversely, things may be going well. Work may be fulfilling and financially rewarding. Family and work relationships may be comfortable. The house may be updated, the car new, and this year’s vacation planned (or taken). By all outward appearances, success. Still, something is missing.
Forgive my harshness, but I submit what is missing is an appropriate understanding of success. This misinformed definition of success leads to a misalignment of priorities. To exacerbate and exploit this, Fifth Avenue advertisements and Wall Street greed bombard us with glamorous visions of what we need to be happy. They constantly tell us we need to make more and more money and buy more and more stuff. And, don’t worry about the cost because they’ll finance it at low interest rates. Like lambs being led to slaughter, we blindly follow along and run up insurmountable credit card balances. By the time we finally realize all this striving and acquiring of stuff did not make us happy, we find our finances are out of control.
But all is not lost. It is possible to get off this treadmill and get our finances back on the right track. It may not be easy, however, especially when confronted daily by seductive messages competing for our minds and wallets.
How to go about gaining a new attitude and a properly formed, educated understanding of financial success? Please allow a quick sports analogy.
Everyone who has played sports calls it ‘fun’ when they win. But think about what it takes to win consistently. The hard work, the hours of training and sweating are not much fun. The tedious repetition of executing proper technique is hardly fun. While friends party, athletes dedicate themselves to the discipline necessary to win. Not much fun. But, winning. That is fun!
Like this new understanding of ‘fun’, a renewed attitude toward money is formed when it is thought of properly as the reward for the use of the talents and abilities we have. Our culture beatifies the self-made, rugged individual who achieves and acquires seemingly by the force of his or her own abilities. But people of faith believe our talents and abilities are gifts of our Creator. Thus, money too is a gift. And as faithful believers, we are to exercise good stewardship of all of His gifts including money.
In the eighth chapter of Deuteronomy (greatly paraphrased) we are admonished, “You say it is your own power and strength that has gained for you this wealth. But it is I who gives you the power to acquire wealth.” Like an alcoholic must acknowledge his own powerlessness and dependence on a higher Power, we should acknowledge our Creator’s gifts of all we are and all we have. In so doing, we gain proper alignment of priorities. How we spend our time and money begin to fall in line with the principles of good stewardship.
So, bravo to the churches who offer classes on finances. Where better to learn the principles of finance that give a legitimate chance for the peace of mind that comes from being in God’s will.