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The following entry is by Lisa E. Lisa is a working professional in San Francisco who has a passion for personal finance. In her free time, she choreographs for side income and volunteers at her local parish. Visit Lisa’s blog, or you can also follow her on Twitter
Money and God
When I graduated high school, I was excited, anxious, and naïve. I got my first job at (the now extinct) Anchor Blue as a Sales Associate and my first paycheck went directly back to the store. I literally cashed my check, headed back to work, and bought all the things I was eyeing. As long as I broke even, and as long as I gave a dollar or two to my church on Sundays, I’m golden, right?
After a year of merely breaking even, I applied for my first credit card. And just like that, I became a swiping addict. I applied for four more cards for a total of five credit cards before my 20th birthday. I looked at my credit limits as opportunities to spend. I’d buy a pair of heels here, a handbag there, and an outfit to match. Lots of clothes and plenty of nights out was what I thought would bring me happiness and my credit was going to help me achieve it.
After years of living this way, I dug myself into a substantial amount of credit card debt. Not to mention I was going to a private, Jesuit college paid for by student loans. And the worse part was realizing that everything that I bought did not make me any happier. In fact – it was my greedy, shopaholic ways that actually turned me into a sad person.
By the time I graduated college, I was broke, jobless, and most of all, I was unhappy. It wasn’t until I over-drafted for the umpteenth time that I decided to change.
I fell for the lie that tells us that money can buy us happiness. But I learned that ultimately, God is the one that can bring you joy. Instead of turning to Him in times of distress, I engaged in frequent sessions of “retail therapy”. Instead of being thankful to Him in times of triumph, I rewarded myself with yet another purchase. In high school, I was active in ministry and proudly called myself a Catholic-Christian. In college, I put materialism before my God and my wants before His will. Needless to say, He knocked me off my high horse (St. Paul reference, anyone?)
After realizing that my money problem was keeping me far from God, I vowed to manage my money. I came up with a budget and went to work. I eventually climbed out of credit card debt and began tithing to my parish!
I’m still on my journey. But here are …
Some things I’ve learned so far
1. You will make mistakes and He will help you
Mistakes are inevitable – no one is perfect. But God loves you the way you are – mistakes and all! In this past year, I fell back into credit card debt and I have put my tithing on a hiatus. Now, I can either drown in my failures or I can ask Him to help me swim. “Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). Call on Him and He will help!
2. Things will change, so learn to adjust
There are just some things you cannot control and there are other things that you just have to take advantage of right away, even if it was not in your original plan. In the past year, I moved back home, I bought a new house for my family, and I also bought a car. When I first started my budget, I never thought that any of these three things would happen. I could look at it as an inconvenience. But I choose to look at it as God’s will at work. As they say, God works in mysterious ways.
3. Be thankful
“In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). It’s easy to give thanks in the good times. But we are also called to be thankful in the bad times. Although I was miserable at the start of my financial turnaround, I’ve learned to be grateful for that time in my life. If it wasn’t for the trying times, I wouldn’t be where I am today!
Do not underestimate the link between your finances and your God. Don’t be a slave to materialism – be a slave to the One who enslaved Himself to the cross for you!