I got 99 problems but $$$ ain't one
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. Mark 10:25
I grew up in a Christian school. It was my sophomore year, and my teacher was leading a discussion on the story of the rich young ruler. He read the verse above. I remember exactly where I was sitting when a classmate’s voice behind me said, Well Jenna’s going to hell.
It wasn’t my first public attack against wealth, and it wouldn’t be my last.
Money has been an issue in my life for a long time. And I know what some may be thinking…Oh, you poor little white, rich girl. Take a hike.
But this story isn’t really about me, so hold on.
Fear and Guilt get credit here. Money was a burden, a controversial issue, something I tried keeping secret for years growing up.
It didn’t seem fair that I would have so much privilege. And what made it harder was that if I was honest, I liked the privilege. I was a big fan of the perks of abundance. It was an extremely comfortable place to be in. And then I would have binges of guilt and give away next to everything in my closet. But I would always buy more stuff eventually.
College was my sweet spot. After graduating from the dorms, I shared a townhome with two other girls. It was sweet and provided everything we needed, but there was plastic taped to the outside of my window to keep the rain out. Nobody suspects you come from money when you look out the bedroom window to see plastic. College kids eat fast food and wear t-shirts and don’t go on big trips. No assumptions about money there. I blended right in because I was just focused on being me.
Then we all graduated and got jobs. I ended up moving back to my hometown, working at the same school I attended as a student.
I realized adults, for the most part, didn’t seem to give a rip about my financial status. My actions were my story.
Money still bothered me though—it was something I felt like I needed to downplay to feel like I officially fit in where I wanted and didn’t fit in where I didn’t want to. It’s why I had a hard time getting a nice car (you can read all about that here) or why I didn’t want to move into a house bigger than what we needed. They felt like big, fat targets to separate me from everyone else.
Through all of the individual decisions involved in becoming an independent person, I began to see that money or not, people could really be anyone they wanted to be as far as character was concerned. I won’t say it doesn’t still sting when someone seems to see me for money, but I’m on the path to seeing my money more as a gift than a curse. I still see money as a privilege, but I’m also seeing it as the ability to give and do. Life is looking less black and white and more customized. We get to decide what our lives look like, and we don’t have to get the approval of anyone else to make it so. Basically, I’m learning time spent worrying about opinions is time lost towards anything else. When I’m focused on assumptions, I can’t be focused on the important stuff in front of me. When I’m focused on assumptions of others, in some weird way, it makes me focus on myself, making the situation a bit narcissistic and not at all about purpose.
Perspective always shifts when we have kids because we think about what we want to instill in them and what kind of humans we hope to help them become. If my daughters grow up with everything they need and more I never want them to be ashamed. I don’t want them to feel like they have to hide trips they take or opportunities they’re given. What I want is for them to not only know the blurry idea that there are people struggling to earn enough money to feed their families—I want them to see it. And I want them to have a gnawing desire in their hearts to do something about it. I want them to experience that giving is always, always more rewarding than receiving. I want them to know what it looks like to live a life full of experience, and that it does not make them selfish. I want them to treat everyone with genuine love and respect—everyone. I want them to view any money they possess as a gift from God and to use it in a way that brings glory to Him—whether that means exploring a part of the world He created or helping a friend or meeting the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of a stranger. I want my kids to never see someone and evaluate them by their finances but to see them for their heart and their potential.
So this is kind of a story about money, but really it’s not. Because really, I think money scares people. Whether you have it or not, I think it can be intimidating because it feels like this judgmental barrier between us that says I’m better than you or You’re better than me. That’s such a crappy lie, you guys. That’s one more thing this world is throwing at us to break us up. Money isn’t our answer or our target. Money doesn’t have the ability to feed our souls and therefore doesn’t have the power to represent our souls. Money lacks any ability to be our identity. We don’t have to live in a cardboard box and eat grass to be givers. But we do have to take action. Our actions are our identity. So maybe what we do with our money can be an indicator of who we are, but money itself is not. On top of that, it isn’t our place to pick apart what others do with their money and decide how they are abiding on the scale of selflessness. What a waste of a perfectly good moment.
Jesus looked at the rich young man standing in front of Him with love. With love. Not judgment. He told him giving is what would fill that void that left him feeling a disconnect between he and God. Giving was his answer. Living by example. Choosing others before himself. An ecstasy of humility.
This is what I want my children to live out. It has nothing to do with money and everything to do with identity.