“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” – 1 John 3:1a
Valentine’s Day is a good reminder to celebrate the people we love. It’s also a good reminder to celebrate the One who came up with the idea of love in the first place, and I’m not talking about St. Valentine.
Already you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this, and what in the world does it have to do with money? Don’t worry; there’s a financial angle here. In fact, within the apostle Paul’s contemplation of God’s love there are strong implications for how we manage our cold, hard cash.
Our culture would have us believe we are consumers and our identity is shaped by what we own. Buying into that worldview keeps us on the performance plan, striving to strengthen our self-worth and win the approval of others with what we buy.
God invites us to relax: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). By accepting his invitation for relationship, the Bible says we gain a completely new identity. We become “a new creation.” “The old has gone,” we read; “the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Financially, the old that has gone is our consumer identity. The new that has come is our identity as nothing less than “children of God.” The Bible also points out that this identity is fixed; it needs no shoring up with a trip to the mall.
If we really get this, it has the power to radically alter our view and use of money. It’s not easy to get this, especially in a culture that ties our identity to what we drive and wear. But in the moments when I do get it, I find myself exhaling with a sigh of relief. I no longer need to drive the right car or wear the right clothes. It’s okay if I do—I have the freedom to choose those things—but I no longer need to. They are not the basis of my identity or God’s approval of me.
Each February, as the TV channels offer their love-themed movies, what if we established a new tradition and spent time reflecting on the greatest love story ever told (John 3:16)? When the apostle Paul did so, he was left in awe. We’ll be awed as well. And we’ll find ourselves remarkably free to step off the consumerist treadmill.