How can our faith help how we manage our money?
As my then-fiancé and I were preparing to get married this past year, I ordered Men, Women and the Mystery of Love: Practical Insights From John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility, by Edward Sri. Initially, I let it fall by the wayside, but now as a newlywed, I am working my way through it. The best summary is perhaps in John Paul II’s own words: “The greater the feeling of responsibility for the person, the more true love there is.”
I wondered: Could love and responsibility have something to do with how we manage our money? I work for the Financial Gym and I write financial plans and coach clients through decisions like how much to save for retirement, how to strategize debt repayment or how to negotiate a new salary. I also write on my blog, Consumer Catholic, about how our faith can influence our finances.
Could love and responsibility have something to do with how we manage our money?
Though I am a practicing Catholic, religion is not something I discuss with most of my clients (unless they bring it up). I know that some of them are Catholic; some are Protestant; some are Jewish; some are Muslim; and some are “nones,” unaffiliated or not religious at all. And yet my faith informs how I approach every client. Each is a daughter or son of God. That means I do my best to bring him or her a Christ-like experience of compassion, kindness and acceptance.
Many times when clients first come to me, they do not see a way out of their financial mess. But just as God says everything is forgivable, in finances everything is fixable.
Pope Francis says, “Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn’t lock itself into darkness, that doesn’t dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see tomorrow.” That “tomorrow” I am helping my clients to achieve is one where they do not feel shame or fear around their money and can make decisions confidently.
There are several benchmarks for financial health that we focus on (debt-to-income ratio, credit score, credit utilization ratio, savings rate, etc.), but I also help my clients understand that not everything comes down to dollars and cents. For example, sometimes a client’s emergency fund is running low because he or she just used it to pay for unexpected medical bills. If we were looking purely at numbers, you could say this person has less in savings today than he or she did yesterday. But if you look at it holistically, this person was able to cover life’s necessities without worrying about how to afford it.
Some people are called to a life of poverty, but not most of us. So there is absolutely no shame in using your God-given gifts to earn money and support your family and the church. In fact, it is what we are called to do. In 1 Tm 5:8, the Bible says, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Providing for your family will look different for everyone, and that is O.K. Sometimes providing for your family does not even involve directly earning money.
In the parable of the talents, the master rewards the servant who made the best investment of the gifts he had been given. Likewise, we are called to do the same. That comes with a lot of responsibility.
That is why this all comes back to love. As John Paul II said, the greater the feeling of responsibility, the more true love there is. By being responsible with the gifts God has given us, we are both receiving and acknowledging the heavenly Father’s love and loving him back. Yes, there can be safety in our financial numbers, but that is just a small taste of the ultimate safety we have in God.