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.
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.
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.