I Am More Than My Income

Corey —  August 17, 2010 — 7 Comments

       A couple weeks ago, I wrote an article as a follow up to the post I did on creating a balance sheet and calculating your net worth. It was called “You Are More Than Your Net Worth“. In the article, I said this:

       There is danger in obsessing over your net worth – in defining your success based on a number. It is wise for you to prudently manage your finances, and tracking your net worth is part of that process. But you must always be aware that your value comes not from what you own but from who you are in Christ. It is in being a child of God that Christians find their true worth.

       I went on to quote a few Bible verses and back up my point quite well (if I do say so myself).

       But I have to admit something to you.

       Apparently, I still don’t get it.

       That’s right. I sat here behind the computer writing about how you shouldn’t base your value on your net worth. But last week, I found myself rating my value based on how much income I’m earning (or not earning, in this case). Let’s back up a bit and get the story.

Laid Off

       In late 2008, I was laid off from my job at a financial planning firm. (Stock Market Decline + % of Assets under Management Compensation Business Model + Recent Expansions + Less than One Year at the Firm = Bye, Bye Paul!) This happened about six months before I married Michelle. Since then, I’ve been working to start my own business, but it’s been a slow start. I’ll be profitable this year, and that’s saying something. But I’ve taken a huge drop in my income for now.

       I could have possibly found another job working at another financial planning firm. But the problem was that I was tired of conflicts of interest and I was tired of catering only to the very rich. After a lot of prayer and discussion with Michelle, we both agreed I should start my own firm and do it in a way that meshes with my ethics.

       Fast forward to today, and I’m working on growing my business and pursuing other ways to earn a living in the meantime. Thankfully, Michelle makes enough working as a nurse that we’re still able to meet our living expenses. God is caring for us during this time. But recently I’ve found myself depressed and judging my own value based on the lack of income I’m bringing in for our family. (It’s just us two right now, but we’d like to have kids someday.)

Who’s Really Running the Show?

       Maybe it’s a guy thing – I want to feel like I’m providing for my wife. But that’s just stupid really. Nothing I have or ever will have has come only from my hands. God has created everything, and everything I have or will have comes from Him. When I give, I’m not giving my money – I’m giving the money God has entrusted to me. When I provide for my family, I’m not providing my money from my hard work – though work is required. If I’m honest with myself, it always has been and always will be God who does the providing.

       When I start judging myself based on my income, I’m taking God out of the equation. My value doesn’t come from what I own and it doesn’t come from what I earn. None of that matters in eternity. My true worth is in being a child of God – and that is infinitely valuable. I was bought for a price that can never be repaid. In God’s eyes, I’m extremely valuable. And He is of the greatest worth to me.

The Currency of Love

       The funny thing is that Michelle has never valued me based on my income (or lack of it). And God hasn’t either. It is in my ability and willingness to love that I find my true value as a Christian and as a husband. And my ability to love suffers as I obsess over my value as a source of income.

       That obsession (and resulting depression) puts me in the service of Mammon and makes me into a workaholic. I work when I should be spending time with God or my wife. I think about work when I should be thinking about other things. This is not healthy for my walk with Christ or my walk with Michelle.

       I’m trying to take my own advice and see my value in the currency of love and not money. It’s not easy. And I’m not so sure it’s something that would be solved if I just earn more money. The root of the problem is not really how much money I’m making (or not making). The root of the problem is me – my perceptions of who I am and what my responsibilities are to God and to my wife.

       I am not dismissing my responsibility to work and provide for my family. But I am dismissing Satan’s lie that I am only as valuable as the money I bring in the door. I will continue to work hard and look for ways to earn more money. But I will pray for God to open my eyes to see my true worth and to have wisdom enough to restrain myself in the pursuit of money. Please pray for me as I continue to pray for all of you.

Your Thoughts

       Have you ever struggled with feelings like this? How did you handle it? How did God show you the truth? Please help me out and share your thoughts in the comments below.

Corey

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Corey is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in religion. While he enjoys learning and writing about Christianity, another one of his new passions is writing about personal finances in order to help others make wise decisions with their money.

7 responses to I Am More Than My Income

  1. Honest words, Paul, something so pervasive in our country! I occassionally slip here as well. In fact, I am ashamed to say pass the veil of justificaitons the man in the mirror tells me I am doing this right now. I have not re-provisioned my employment to match my ethics. I am a single dad trying to provide while working at a job that expects me to be on-call 24×7 and work after the kids go to bed. I know God will provide. I know HE is my foundation and support. But I find myself crawling out of alimony payments and debt before I leap to lower earnings. Yes, I need to provide for my kids, but should I of kept their home? Would it be so bad to move closer to my work and be in a ‘good’ school district instead of ‘great’ if that means I can be home more? This is a tough one. I feel it is a one-way street. Once I step off the executive treadmill I know I will never go back. So I work and do my best to get to a place we can live on less. It excites me, but I know there will be a little bit of “am I less” because I am bringing in 1/3 of my current salary. THANK YOU for reminding us of satan’s lie and GOD’S TRUTH. As it still says on our currency, In GOD we trust.

  2. Powerful post, and I appreciate the feelings you put into it. Difficult times now, esp in the financial services industry.

    That is AMAZING you are profitable in your own business so quick, and I gotta tell ya, you will learn so much and come out of this time period stronger.

    You should consider joining the Yakezie Challenge, and then becoming a full fledge Yakezie member in 6 months. I think it will help your business, and help your focus. You’ll have a group of people who will rally around you as well.

    Best, Sam

  3. Great post Paul – that sums up the struggles I was having recently when evaluating a major life decision. A wise Christian mentor told me not to underestimate amount of myself or my wife’s self worth is found in my career and financial success. How do I look to her family? How do I look at myself? How much of that is based on career success which really translates to how much money I am making?

    What was suggested is that I needed to look at my value as God looks at it which isn’t a binary view. In other words, God doesn’t look at us as purely believers or not. He looks at our heart as well as our actions and deeds done for His glory. I am still in the process of trying to look at myself in this new light. It isn’t easy.

    I hope through prayer and time in His word that I will one day have a biblical and Godly view of myself allowing me to shift my self confidence into confidence in Christ.

  4. Thanks, Sam! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I try to be honest and open in everything I post on here, but this was probably my most candid post so far. But I thought it might help some people who have gone/are going/will go through the same thing.

    I think it’s a good sign that the business is profitable already but it’s only slightly so. The key for me has been keeping my overhead low and not wasting money on useless stuff. What I need is clients – not a fancy office, flashy business cards, or other stuff you can get carried away with when starting a business. I’ve also done a good bit of work myself (incorporating, filing state investment adviser paperwork, etc.), but it helps that I’m familiar with business law, structures, and taxes.

    I’ve considered joining the Yakezie Challenge. I’ve read about it and used some of the tips you posted. My Alexa ranking shot up quite a bit in that time and I moved to page 2 of WiseBread’s PF blog list. It’s tapered off now though. I’ll go check out the challenge again. Good luck with the launch of the website for it!

  5. @Kevin(#1): You’re struggling with some tough things there! It sounds like you really need the money right now, but I would also encourage you to keep challenging yourself. The years with your kids will pass by quickly and then they’re gone. It sounds like you want to spend more time with them, so keep looking for ways to lower your expenses, increase your income, or improve your quality of life (like moving closer). I think it’ll be worth the “sacrifice” as the world sees it!

    @Erik(#3): Thanks for commenting! I agree that getting God’s view of us isn’t easy. How can we expect to understand things as the Creator does? But we must strive to live to honor Him and not the world. I, too, will pray for your goal of having confidence in Christ instead of ourselves.

  6. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Josh. Your words are an encouragement to me. It sounds like we are indeed experiencing some of the same struggles. I appreciate your words at the end as well. That will be my prayer for both of us.

    I agree with what you’ve said about perceptions of your wife. I think that can be an easy trap for men to fall into. I didn’t actually have a time where I was earning more than Michelle while she was my wife because I was laid off before we got married. But there will be a day when I am earning more than her again, and I must be careful to continue to appreciate who she is and all she does.

    Thanks again, Josh, and God’s peace be with you.

  7. Been some rough times since the housing collapse.  Hope things are looking up for you.

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