I've heard the chorus to Abba's “Money, money, money” more times than I could count. You've probably heard it and know the words too, “money, money, money, must be funny, in a rich man's world. Money, money, money, always sunny, in a rich man's world!”
However, I've never paid attention to the rest of the words. The first verse says, “I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay...and still there never seems to be a penny left for me.”
Haven't we all felt like that at some point (or every pay day!)? I know I have. The money comes in, and almost immediately it comes out again; literally in our case, and for lots of people, who have automatic deductions and transfers for things like rent or mortgage repayments, credit card repayments, phone and internet bills.
The list goes on! And there are the little things, the $5 for a coffee here, the $2 for a sneaky chocolate there. When you add them up at the end of the week, they often become quite a significant amount.
Changing my attitude towards money
I've had an up and down relationship with money. I started work as soon as I could at fourteen at Hungry Jacks, and worked non-stop at many and various jobs until two years ago when I had my baby. While I was single and living at home, I always put the bulk of my income straight into a savings account. I'm incredibly blessed to have generous parents who allowed me to live rent free while I saved up some cash!
As a result, when Colin and I got married we had a decent amount to put towards our wedding, honeymoon, and a bond for our first rental home together. Up until then, I had always assumed saving money would be a given, and that there would always be reserves.
How quickly I realised this is not the case “in real life”! Even with two steady incomes, our money suddenly seemed to evaporate, going towards rent and groceries and bills. We managed to continue to save for an overseas holiday, but during that holiday had to start using a credit card...something I had never done. All of a sudden money changed from a wonderful tool to live the life I wanted, to something literally to make the ends meet.
Coming back from our holiday, becoming pregnant, and now with a two-year-old daughter and one income, we really had to realign our ideas of how to see and understand our finances.
I found myself reading books and articles about finances/savings/different accounts/how to manage debt, and so forth. I prayed and I talked to Godly men and women who seemed to understand how to value their money (regardless of how much or how little they had).
Unfortunately I didn't get some sort of three-step plan to have it all sorted. I did, however, find myself seeing not only our money; but our home, our cars, our material things, in a new light.
Stewarding our 'stuff' well
We still have debt. We still often live week to week. The difference is, we have a plan! We're not going to just let our money come in and out, being frivolous with how we see and understand the resources we are so lucky to have.
Of course, we're not perfect, just this last week I made a couple of regrettable purchases. We're still in the process of looking more deeply into things like our internet and mobile providers, to ensure we're actually getting the best deals we can, something we'd been putting off doing for a while.
However, by looking after the things we have (for example, ensuring our cars and home are well maintained), we can both save money, and live out an attitude of gratitude and respect for what we already own.
By thinking about where we spend our everyday money (for example, buying handmade or second hand clothing, home grown food, and looking after and repairing things), we're not only managing our resources in the most efficient ways we can, but we're gaining a better understanding of how to look after people and the planet in ethical and sustainable ways.
It has been a true joy for me, especially as a stay at home mum with my daughter Lucy along side, to find new and creative ways to really think about how and where we spend our money. It has seen us visit road side stands for local honey and free produce, giving us the chance to meet with and talk to the people who have grown and produced our food.
We've made connections with local small businesses that have made lots of Lucy's clothes, and we've been able to give away things we don't need to those who do. We've swapped office supplies for farm fresh produce, and we've watched the joy on Lucy's face as she picks and eats a tomato or strawberry from our garden.
As a Christian, I really don't believe that the point of this life is to either wallow in debt, or to amass and hoard as much wealth as possible. I really do believe that when Jesus said he came to bring abundant life (John chapter 10 verse 10), he meant a life that is full of joy: joy found in people, plants, animals, and yes, sometimes in 'things'.
For basically everyone in the world, money is a fundamental part of life: we can't live without it. I don't think it's a coincidence then, that Jesus has so much to say about wealth, greed, and how we understand what we have. Throughout the Old Testament too, there is so much wisdom to be found in this area.
But really, I believe it boils down to these pretty infamous words from Jesus: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew chapter 6 verse 24).
God doesn’t want us to stress about where our money is going. Jesus was well aware that to be purely focused on money, means we can't be purely focused on him.
I'm still figuring out what that looks like, and learning how to be wise and generous with not only our money, but our time and our home and our stuff, but I know one thing's for sure: if I trust in God with all my heart, leaning on his wisdom and not mine, seeking his will in all that I do, he will show me the right way to live (Proverbs chapter 3 verses 5 and 6).
Jess is married to Colin, and they have a two year old daughter, Lucy. Together they are striving to live like Jesus every day, by loving God, loving people, and serving the world with joy. Jess Curries’ previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jess-currie.html.