Heroic Money Management

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

During what would be my father’s final year of life, I wrote him a letter. His health was declining rapidly, and he was deeply depressed over the recent death of my mother. I wanted him to draw some measure of satisfaction from the courage with which he had lived his life, including his heroic service in World War II.

As navigator of a B-17 bomber, there were missions he flew where he saw planes ahead of his disappear into thick clouds of smoke and fragments of exploding artillery shells. He wondered how he and his crewmates could possibly survive. By the end of his tour of duty, he had flown 35 missions, many over heavily armed targets.

In my letter, I quoted from the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V, in which the king exhorts his outnumbered army by telling them that all who step up to the challenge that day will be forever changed.

He that shall see this day, and live old age,

Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,

And say, “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,

And say, “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”

Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,

But he’ll remember with advantages,

What feats he did that day.

Most of us will never know the courage required of war. Yet we all face decisions that test our courage, some of them related to money.

The money/purpose connection

Carol and Tim bought a house that reminded Carol of her childhood home. It wasn’t large or luxurious, but it was on a nice street in a nice town and she thought of it as her dream home.

The mortgage required both of their incomes, which didn’t seem like a problem since they thought they could not have children. Sure enough, shortly after moving in Carol got pregnant. She felt a strong call to stay home full-time, but they couldn’t make it work on just one income. For five years they wrestled with the tension of having enough money for their mortgage, but frustratingly little time for their daughter. Finally, they decided to sell their home and buy one that required just one income.

To many, it probably looked like a step backwards. Their new street wasn’t as nice, and neither was their new town. But by bringing their financial situation in line with their highest commitments, they took a difficult, disruptive, heroic step forward.

What about you?

What financial decisions are you wrestling with? Is there a bold, counter-cultural step you’re considering in order to get your finances straight? Is there a different line of work that keeps coming to mind in the quiet of the night?

Our culture calls us toward comfort, but God often calls us toward choices that rock our world and require great courage. Just contemplating those choices will bring out the mockers and the doubters. Years from now, though, it’s the courageous decisions we made that we’ll remember “with advantages.”

Clarity about the purpose of life brings clarity about the purpose of money, and that makes all the difference. Learn more by checking out the new Money. Purpose. Joy. video-based small group resource.

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6 Responses to Heroic Money Management

  1. Michelle April 11, 2016 at 10:06 AM #

    I’m glad Tim and Carol got what they wanted but its a little sad that Carol missed all the little baby / hands-on time for 5 years. And they must have had to pay for day care during those 5 years on top of the high mortgage. Many couples seem to decide that the wife will go back to work when the child starts school but Carol did it the other way around. The good point is that they are happy with the decision. I had a wise older woman tell me as a new wife “Always try to live as if you have to live on one income incase one gets sick or a job plays out.” Wise words but most can’t or don’t chose to live by them.

    Michelle near Memphis

  2. Ken April 9, 2016 at 10:03 AM #

    Good article, Matt. When my daughter was born I was working for a consulting company – the hours were long, but the work was challenging, the employees were great, and the pay was high. The catch was there wasn’t going to be a means to ensure that I would not spend a majority of my time on the road.

    Two days ago my daughter turned 18 and in August she is moving out of state to attend college. I’m so glad I was able to be around most evenings, summers, etc…, even though my total life-time earnings won’t be what it could have been (I’m not intending to offend any “road warriors” – just sharing that money isn’t the only thing to consider).

    • Matt Bell April 9, 2016 at 10:22 PM #

      Thanks for sharing such a great example, Ken. I’m sure it was hard to resist the bigger paycheck and maybe added prestige, and it may have been tempting to justify sticking with that job as a way of providing well for your family. But I’m sure the added time together has proven to be a better form of provision.

      It reminds me of a friend who’s a pilot for a major airline. He turned down many opportunities to move up to captain, choosing to remain co-pilot because he had better control over his schedule. It was only after his kids were off to college that he took the promotion.

      As you said at the end, it isn’t to criticize anyone who chooses differently, but the time/money trade-off is a great example of a decision that can require a lot of courage to work through authentically.

  3. Mark S. April 5, 2016 at 1:44 PM #

    Great piece Matt about bring courage forward to our daily decisions. Both large and small. I was shopping in Costco last night and three or four or maybe five times I was looking at something, holding it, even put it into the cart when for some reason I paused and asked myself the hard question: Do I really need this!? I sure as heck wanted it but thought – in each case- I have at least an acceptable version of this product at home. I didn’t need to necessarily get “the better model” I was looking at. Nice, but it would have just been more stuff. So I focused on the 3 simple things I did go there for!

    Not necessarily pure ‘courage’ but it took a lot of will to move through that process. And it felt so good afterwards and I came home appreciating all that I do have. And I look forward to a future shopping trip to that store as other – real – needs arise!

    Courage – to see what is r e a l . So important…

    • Matt Bell April 9, 2016 at 10:13 PM #

      That’s a great point, Mark, about how it takes courage to manage all the daily temptations to spend money on this or that and stay true to what we can actually afford or what matters most. It definitely takes courage to swim against the stream of our consumer culture. And what a great outcome — that it felt so good later to have made those decisions.

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