At my first job I discovered that wearing a coat and tie was obligatory for just about every male with a desk job. I decided that I needed more than the one suit my parents had bought for me. One of my coworkers told me about a discount store nearby. It sounded like the perfect place for me! At the store I spotted exactly what I was looking for: the sale rack. Nothing hanging there was even mildly eye-catching. Nothing was my size. But when something is marked down, those issues are mere details. I picked an ugly brown pattern that was the best of the worst. I honestly didn’t think it looked too bad. I should have known otherwise when the salesperson tried to talk me out of it.
I didn’t wear that suit for long. My parents saw it and were horrified—so aghast that they bought me another suit and threw in a sport coat. Given their frugal streak—which I inherited—you can guess how bad I must have looked. (I would like to say I learned my lesson, but as I write, I’m wearing a pair of shoes I also purchased on sale. I’m confident they’ll feel comfortable when they eventually stretch out.)
Is wanting more bad?
At the most basic level, there is nothing wrong with wanting more. Jesus himself says, “I have come that [you] may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). The quest for abundance—for ourselves and others—is a healthy human instinct. Longing for a better life, to improve ourselves and our family’s circumstances, and to leave the world better than we found it are all parts of how God made us.
But yet, that natural desire to have a better life is overtaken by the loud voice of our culture telling us “more is better.” There is always a new iPhone or iPad or iSomething coming out. When everyone else is sprinting in a full-out race to have more, it’s tough to stand on the sidelines. And it’s tough to know what a healthy desire for abundance is, versus an unhealthy belief that “more” makes you happy.
It’s that struggle that led me to collaborate with a colleague to write a book about how to have a healthy relationship with money. There are three reasons we think this journey is incredibly important.
Why Having a Healthy Relationship with Money Matters
First, Jesus makes money a crucial topic. It’s impossible to miss in Scripture how often he talks about our unhealthy relationship with money, and how easily we make money an idol that usurps the place of more important things. Jesus aims to lead us to life, and we can think of nothing better than that.
Second, this journey will change you. However you would describe your feelings about money—unease, tension, bondage, discouragement, dissatisfaction, even boredom—we want to help you break free from the debilitating effects of consumerism.
Third, the transformation you experience will change the world. We believe that if people—especially Christians—could have a healthier relationship with money, it would change the world. We envision a world of human flourishing where both a financial sense of well-being and joyful generosity prevail. We believe change can happen better, faster, and further than any of us think possible. We truly believe that people can be free from the slavery of a consumer culture by having a right relationship with money as taught by Jesus and other voices of Scripture, and as a result they will live openheartedly with their time, energy and money.
Taking the First Steps
Imagine a life where you control your money instead of your money controlling you. Don’t believe your money is in control? Do you find yourself wrestling with credit card debt you can’t pay off, or a car you can’t afford, or a house worth less than you owe on it? Do you find the “happiness” of buying something online becoming more and more of a habit? Here are some steps you can take to start considering how to have a healthier relationship with money and find a more openhearted way of living.
First, take a look at your current relationship with money. You can use an online assessment tool like the New Money Mindset Assessment tool. You’ll get four scores; each score measures one aspect of your relationship with money. Or simply take some time to look at your habits and think about the role of money in your life.
Next, try adding more “good stuff” to your life. By that I don’t mean another round of spending! I’m talking about leading with generosity grounded in grace. Instead of putting all your energy into cutting, focus on giving. If you’re stingy, like I am, try tipping a little extra for services, or buying the nicer present that you normally wouldn’t. And it doesn’t have to be financial. Send a thank you email to one person each day, every day for a week; pay someone an unexpected compliment; spend more time listening to someone. Or sign up for a volunteer shift . When you choose to live generously, you break your own persistent desire for more.
Shrink the Change
Another approach is what the Heath brothers (Chip and Dan Heath, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard) call “Shrink the Change.” Take housecleaning, for example. If you tell yourself you have to clean the whole house, the Heath brothers suggest you might never get started. But if you clean for ten minutes and then stop, they would say that’s a success, just to get started. Try applying that concept to money. If saving 10% more each month feels out of reach, start with one percent more than you save right now. Aim to increase by one-percent every three to six months until you reach your goal. By making the goal easily attainable, you can get yourself started.
This post was originally featured on Living Well, Spending Less.
Buy Your New Money Mindset: How to Create a Healthy Relationship with Money at Tyndale.com.
Download the New Money Mindset Study Guide to facilitate discussion with a small group or class.
Find Teaching Series Materials Tools for a four-week series to work through the book for teaching a class or content to develop a sermon series.
About the Authors
Brad Hewitt is a CEO with a unique perspective. Since 2010, Brad has served as president and CEO of Thrivent Financial, a not-for-profit Fortune 500 organization. In this role, he has made it his work to help Americans rediscover a healthy relationship with money. At the heart of this relationship is the idea that being wise with money and generosity go hand in hand. He and his wife, Sue, have two adult children and live in Minnesota.
James Moline, Ph.D., believes that developing the opportunity for generosity to build God’s kingdom on earth stands as a central issue of our times. As a licensed psychologist, confidant and advisor, Jim has built a 30-year career consulting with global companies about providing senior leadership excellence, managing across borders, and transforming their organizations in an era of rapid change and uncertainty. As a former tenured professor, Jim is passionate about influencing lifelong learning in the communities he serves. He and his family live in Minnesota.