“The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
I learned to embrace tension a long time ago. It’s a natural part of life. If you’re comfortable, I think you’re doing it wrong. Even so, I’ve been struggling with a tension I can’t shake: My desire to fully use my talents and the Gospel of Poverty.
My faith is the underlying foundation for the decisions and choices I make in life.
Faith/ spirituality/ religion/ Christianity is often muddled in today’s post-modern culture. To me, it’s simple. I am a Catholic. I am a Christian. I grew up neither. Both were decisions I made in late high school and early college. No one forced me. I was called, I listened, and I responded. My relationship with God is daily and the miracles play out in the small moments. It’s an adventure that is far from over and I continue to grow every day.
I lean toward conservative doctrine and schools of thought. I try to read and pray daily. Through all of this I’ve paid close attention to the Gospel of Poverty. Christ lived simply. His apostles lived simply. Wealth isn’t something that’s pursued. While there is more to it, it seems to be in contrast to most of the business-esqe resources I listen to and read.
The problem is I often feel guilty when I think about making a lot of money. It’s something I’ve never been comfortable with.
So where do I go? Do I continue faithfully serving my school and students knowing I won’t be able to put away money for my children’s college or my own retirement? Does that mean I have little faith? Should I pursue using my talents in a way that can better provide for my family? Does pursuing financial stability mean I don’t trust God?
I have many thoughts on the issue but it boils down to a few items.
1. What are my intentions? I don’t want to be rich. I don’t care about material items. Everyone who knows me will tell you I loathe shopping. The majority of my purchasing decisions are based on utility and practicality. I own 3 pairs of shoes, I still wear clothes from high school and any time I get a new shirt, I give away an old one. If I made more money, this wouldn’t change.
In this case, “good” and “bad” are determined more by the motive than the act itself.
2. Why do I want to make more money? I want to improve the quality of my family’s life. I want to put money away for my kids’ future and for my wife and I to retire. I want to buy healthier food for our family. I want to be more hospitable to our friends when they visit our home and do more for our community. I want to give more to church and leave bigger tips or pay for the person behind me in line because I can and not worry about how that affects my predetermined budget.
How will it affect my relationship with God? Will pursuing smart ways to make more money and better use of my talents create riffs in my relationship with God? I certainly hope not. Fortunately I have a wonderful family, friends, and church community that will hold me accountable if it does.
The point is to stay in communion with God. If the Holy Spirit is in my work, whatever it may look like or however much I get paid, that is what’s most important.
Too often I freeze when it’s time to make a serious decision. It took a very clear event to decide on a teaching career. It took me nearly 7 years to ask my wife to marry me (I was blessed with a VERY patient woman).
I refuse to continue living paralyzed by the unknown.
When you look at the Old Testament, it’s a variety of stories of people who weren’t sure, asked for God’s blessing, and took a step of a faith. In most instances, it was after the step of faith that God answered with either opening or closing doors.
After much prayer, conversation, and discussion, consider this my step of faith.
Location: Downstairs work area
Music: Asleep at the Wheel by Working For A Nuclear Free City
Beverage: SoCo and Pepsi
Jeff, I think it would be of a benefit for you to listen to/read some Dave Ramsey (if you haven’t already). He is always talking about finances as it relates to our journey with God and how God asks us to provide for our families first and foremost and to be good stewards of the resources He entrusts us with. Your reasons for wanting a larger income are noble and more than that, I believe, in line with what God asks of all of us: to take care of our families, to be active in the church, and to give generously of what we can spare. But seriously, look Dave up…
Jeff Large says
Hey Allison! Thanks for the suggestion. I have and (surprisingly) I don’t agree with the way he presents his message. I’ve listened to several different speakers who make the “if you have more, you can do more” and the “be good stewards” arguments and I don’t agree with the way they present their opinions. I had a really good conversation about the post with a friend about how Christ chose to have power “under” people opposed to “over” people. Clearly he had power but he used it to serve the other. Money is power. However, even with money (aka power), I can choose to have a servant heart. Plus, my goal isn’t money. It’s hopefully going to be a by-product of responding faithfully to where I feel called and to the talents I’ve been given. I appreciate your thoughts and thanks for reading!
Chad Warner says
I think about this a lot too, and have the same intentions (better providing for my family, giving more to church, and giving more to other worthy causes). I agree that it’s more about motive than about the amount of money you earn or acquire. The Bible is full of examples of God loving the poor, the wealthy, and those in between. It’s not about their wealth or poverty, but how they used their resources to serve God. I’ve found Jesus’ Parable of the Talents especially helpful. It tells us how to use all our resources, and can apply to our abilities, time, and finances.
Jeff Large says
Thanks for the comment Chad. Another great spot I’ve been focusing on is Galatians 5/ the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I have a really cool link and such I’m going to share on a different post. I’ll let you know when it goes up.