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We all know that money doesn’t buy happiness. If money bought happiness, there wouldn’t be so many wealthy people in the world who are unhappy, in therapy and making poor choices.  Significantly, it isn’t their money that makes them unhappy.  Rather, they already are sad people who happen to have money.  And their large bank accounts and expensive homes don’t make them feel any better.

Now even though money can’t make us happy, it nevertheless is important. If you don’t have enough money, two things happen:  First, you are a burden to others because they have to support you.  Second, you don’t have a meaningful way to help other people.  To put it bluntly, someone who is hungry doesn’t need your prayers.  They need food.  And food costs money.  So money is necessary both to take care of ourselves and to take care of others.

Unfortunately, many of us don’t have the right relationship with money. We confuse the amount of money that we have with our value as human beings.  That is in part, why some people buy things with exterior labels.  For instance, some women like to carry handbags that clearly identify the designer (and therefore the price tag).  Others like to drive cars from certain luxury manufacturers.  By owning these things, people are trying to tell the world that they have a lot of cash, and therefore they are important.  It is a common, misguided approach to money.

As spiritual people, we need to have a proper understanding of the role that money should play in our lives. First of all, money is necessary.  It helps us buy things like food, clothing and shelter for ourselves and our families.  It also is useful.  Without it, we can’t help others.  And money enables us to do things that we enjoy, whether it is going out to dinner on occasion or traveling to places that we’ve never been.  That is the point of money.

But while money is useful, it also brings with it responsibility. Money is a gift from God, and we have a responsibility to manage it properly.  To that end, we are called to spend (and save) responsibly.  One of the positive results of the recession is that it has forced people to adopt proper spending habits.  Since the recession, most of us now are more cautious spenders.  For example, I no longer purchase things simply because I like them.  I buy what I need and no more.

Part of properly managing our money also is using some of it to make the world a better place. In Matthew, Jesus outlines what our obligation is to the world:

 “ for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’” Matthew 25: 35-36 [emphasis added]

It is hard not to feel convicted after reading that passage. We are called to use our blessings, including our money, to help others.  That means that when we manage our money, we should be setting some of it aside for that purpose.  We aren’t supposed to be spending every last penny solely on ourselves.

Ultimately, money isn’t about happiness. Sure, it can buy things and experiences that we can enjoy.  But that enjoyment is fleeting.  It doesn’t provide the contentment that is the basis for a happy life.  Instead money tests our ability to be responsible stewards of what God has given us.  We are responsible to make it, and then to use it wisely.  As you make your financial plans for the coming year, consider how you will use your money and how you can be the best steward of the blessings that God has given you.

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