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The Starting Point for Building Effective Money Management Habits

Financially speaking, do you know who you are?

That may seem like a strange question. After all, most people probably haven’t even thought about their financial identity. Even for those who have, what in the world does it have to do with finding some financial breathing room, getting out of debt, or investing more successfully?

In short, it has everything to do with all of that and so much more.

As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, puts it, “True behavior change is identity change.” And, “The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become.”

Since you’re reading this blog, I assume you are a person of faith. And yet, that’s no guarantee that you understand your biblical financial identity. 

If we don’t understand who we were made to be, or if we haven’t fully embraced it, that leaves us vulnerable to our culture’s point of view. And in countless ways, both subtle and overt, our culture tells us we are “consumers.” 

What’s in a word?

That may sound harmless, but have you ever looked up what it means to be a “consumer”? To consume is to use up, destroy, or spend wastefully.

But it’s worse than that. You see, “consumer” is more than a word; it’s a worldview.

If I’m a consumer, life is all about me—my pleasure, my comfort, my happiness.

If I’m a consumer, happiness is found in money and what it can buy.

And if I’m a consumer, life is a competition to have more.

I’m not saying we overtly, consciously arrange our lives this way, but this is the direction the culture pulls us in, and if we’re not intentional, our lives can start to look a lot like that.

A consumer is the polar opposite of who God made us to be and what he made us to be about.

The Bible doesn’t say life is all about us; it says life is all about God (Matthew 22:36-38).

The Bible doesn’t teach us to love money and things; it teaches us to love people (Matthew 22:39).

And the Bible doesn’t say life is found in competition; it says life is found in contribution (Ephesians 2:10).

Those are the three overarching purposes of our lives: To love God, love people, and make a difference with our lives. That means those are the three overarching purposes of money. Orienting our use of money around those purposes will lead to the most successful, satisfying experience with money.

Remembering who you are

What’s the word for such a person? Typically, we hear the term, “steward.” While that’s accurate, let me ask you: Does it motivate you? Are you excited about being a steward? If so, that’s great. However, it’s been my experience that some people carry that identity as a heavy burden. It’s as if God has said to them, “Here’s some of my stuff. Not don’t lose or break any of it.” 

But that isn’t what he says at all. To the two servants depicted in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) who made something more of what was entrusted to them, God not only said, “Well done.” He also then entrusted them with more. And with all that He entrusts to us, we’re encouraged to build our lives wisely.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” – Matthew 7:24-27

You were designed to be a wise builder. The “rock” is God’s word. Build your life, financially and otherwise, on a foundation of God’s word and it will stand strong. The “sand” is the shifting fads and philosophies of our consumer culture. Build your life on sand and it will fall.

So, the starting benefit of being a wise builder is that your financial life will be solid. That’s all about peace of mind, and it’s a wonderful place to start. But there’s more that’s available. There’s joy.

Anything less is settling for too little

Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). The New Living Bible translates this as, “My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.” 

Our role is to take all that has been entrusted to us and build—a thriving relationship with God, loving relationships with others, and lives of meaningful contribution.  

This blog is all about the financial implications of that—exploring what it looks like to manage money with those goals in mind and to experience “life in all its fullness.” 

If that’s what you’re after, I’d like to ask two things of you. First, participate in this blog by leaving comments, sharing your experience, and asking questions. And second, invite others to come along. Tell others about this blog by sending them a link and encouraging them to subscribe.

With God’s Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, far more of us should have a better relationship with money. It’s possible; it’s available. Let’s take the next steps into the new year together, and let’s bring some friends along for the journey. 

Take it to heart: “Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.” – Matthew 25:19

Take action: One day, the Master really will return. One habit that will help ensure that we will be found faithful is to ask these questions as we consider various financial decisions: What would a manager of God’s resources—a wise builder—do in this situation? And will this choice help me love God, love people, and make a difference with my life, or could it hinder any of that?

Read more: An Identity Theft Like No Other

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3 Responses to The Starting Point for Building Effective Money Management Habits

  1. Marlin Sommers January 7, 2020 at 3:32 PM #

    “Here’s some of my stuff. Now don’t break it.” What a depressing way to think about what we call stewardship, but it is one of our cultural versions of stewardship. But the point of being a steward is not just that your stuff belongs to God. Stewards, or better household managers, were responsible to take care of other people in the household (Luke 12:42-48). To be a a steward is to administer God’s gifts as a blessing to others (1 Peter 4:10-11).

    • Matt Bell January 7, 2020 at 4:25 PM #

      Completely agree, Marlin. And I really like the way you put that — “To be a steward is to administer God’s gifts as a blessing to others.”

      It isn’t that the word “steward” is wrong. It’s just that it’s often misunderstood or doesn’t resonate. In many churches, I think it’s fair to say that the stewardship ministry is perceived as only being about increasing giving or only for people in financial trouble. Maybe that’s why quite a few such ministries are replacing the word “stewardship” with phrases like “financial discipleship.”

      • Marlin Sommers January 7, 2020 at 5:06 PM #

        I quite like that phrase: “Financial Discipleship.”

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