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Laying the Foundation

laying foundation

I have an old wooden retaining wall in our back yard that has rotted away after 30+ years in the ground.  I finally decided to hire someone to come and replace the wall with a more permanent wall of retaining wall block made out of concrete which should stand the test of time hopefully!

It’s been very insightful to watch them work.  They spent hours and hours on the first layer of blocks to be laid.  As they worked, I thought “wow these guys are thorough”, and “man, this is going to take forever at this pace!” They would check each block 4 or 5 times to make sure it was level and in line with the block beside it, and make many small adjustments to ensure that everything was aligned and level.

After they finished that first course, it was even more amazing to see how quickly the next layers just flew into place.  They were all stacked upon a perfectly true first layer, and needed almost no leveling or adjusting at all from that point forward.

It’s the same way with stewardship.  If we get the base layer off, the whole rest of the wall will be out of line, unlevel, and unstable.  It seems pretty easy to look at others and see crumbling walls, but it can be difficult to assess our own walls sometimes.  The planks in our own eyes can be much harder to detect than the speck in our brother’s.

So what makes up the base layer for our financial walls?  Before we get to savings and spending habits, lifestyles, and even money personalities, we need to think through and know what we believe about Money.  What do you believe that Money is and isn’t?  Our beliefs shape our actions which form our habits.

Let’s take a look at some common good and bad beliefs when it comes to Money.

What Money Isn’t

I’ve heard it said that money makes a great servant but a terrible master.  While it can be used for great purposes, if we’re not careful it can start to rule our lives.  It’s one of the leading reasons given for divorce, the leading causes of crime, and can lead to addictions like gambling, workaholism, etc.  Here are a few of the common bad beliefs regarding Money:

Money isn’t a scoreboard – Many of us use money to measure up or keep score against others.  If I have more than you then I must be more valuable and vice-versa.  This might be you if you find yourself talking about you or other people’s lifestyles frequently, or looking at the value of your investments a little too often.  The reality is that there will always be someone with more or less money than you, and comparison is often the thief of joy.

Money isn’t a measure of self-worth – Tied in with the above bad belief is that I’m more or less valuable as a person depending on how much money I have.  We often confuse Net Worth with our actual worth and will feel better about ourselves if we feel above average.  It’s amazing how many articles I’ll see on how much it takes to be considered “wealthy” or “upper middle class” in America.  We all want to feel affirmed, and Money can be a false and fickle source of our worthiness.

Money isn’t a source of happiness – We’ve all heard it said that money can’t buy happiness, but it sure hasn’t stopped most of us from trying.  We’re constantly inundated with advertisements trying to sell us on goods or services that will make our lives better and make us happier.  We deal with the fear of missing out, keeping up with the Joneses, and all other manner of deceptive lies that try to get us to use our money to make us happy.  Real joy is a state of being, not a state of achieving.  It’s independent of our circumstances, bank accounts, and worldly successes.

These and other lies will all work to skew our walls out of alignment.  I think it’s also noteworthy that small misalignments in a block wall may not be noticeable at first.  But when the blocks are out of alignment then cracks grow, the wall starts to lean over time, and foundational flaws can cause the whole wall to come crashing down.

What Money Is

For all of the lies that we can believe about Money, there are great Biblical truths that we can counter them with.  These truths will keep us anchored to the Truth and keep the successive layers of financial habits and strategies from getting off course.  Credit to Ron Blue for coining some of these – I learned them very early in my career and they’ve always stuck with me as great foundational blocks for stewardship:

Money is a Tool – Money is a neutral, inanimate thing that can be used for great good (or evil).  Money can be a great resource, and God has used it throughout generations to provide for families (1 Tim 5:8), support ministers and the church (Malachi 3:10, 1 Cor 16:2), and help us to love our neighbors (1 John 3:17-18).  It can be used to pay for education, run businesses, and enjoy God’s creation.

Money is a Test – Money is a great test of our faithfulness.  Matthew 6:24 is pretty clear on this – “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” We’re going to love either God or Money, but we can’t do both.  Which one will you choose?

Money is a Testimony – Stewardship cannot be faked.  If you want to see what someone loves, take a look at their calendars and their credit card statements and it will be fairly obvious.  What does your credit card statement say to the world around you?  Is it a testimony that God’s grace is sufficient, or do you find yourself chasing after other things?

Can we say like Paul that “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Phil 4:11-12)?

I feel like we’re just scratching the surface on many of these things. But I want to reiterate that when watching these guys build my retaining wall that they spent a ton of time on that first course.  We would be remiss if we just gloss over these money beliefs without getting our levels out and checking each block three and four times.

Unfortunately, unlike my retaining wall outside, these building blocks of money beliefs can get out of alignment over time, and need to be revisited every once a while to keep away the cracks that can lead to failure over time.  So spend some time looking at your first course of stone in the wall, and let’s strive together to honor the Lord with our wealth!