In several Christian traditions, there is a recent phenomenon of a devotion method known as SOAP. It’s a nice acronym that stands for the following: Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. For those who are unfamiliar with it, it is a devotional method. It is the structure used for people to engage the Bible. Here’s how it works. Someone will select a scripture, and write it down next to the ‘S’. Then, they will make an observation from that scripture. It can be something simple or complex. Based on that observation, you apply it to your life – make an application. Then, say a prayer in a way that incorporates the rest of what has been covered.
There are many great things to say about this devotional method. It’s easy to remember and encourages people to read their bibles. What it is really directed at is making it personal. It is a post-modern take on reading the bible because it emphasizes that everyone can make different observations and applications from the same scripture verse. It isn’t saying that there is one way to read each and every verse.
Yet, at the same time, it is doing the Christian community a disservice. While I agree that ordinary people can have a valuable perspective from reading a part of scripture, it often entails taking things out of context. Not only is the scripture selected as a part of a larger context (that is, a couple verses instead of the whole chapter or book), but it often fails to incorporate historical context. The stuff that is not explicitly said in the passage. When reading the bible, there are just as many important things that are not said as there are things that are written. Another horrible thing it is doing is misapplying the context of the Bible to current day settings. In other words, people are believing that the context in the Bible is similar to their own, when it really isn’t.
What happens, as a result, is a Christian community that is uninformed, under-educated, and most importantly, emphasizing the observations or applications over the scripture itself. In other words, people remember what you should or should not do as opposed to the story that they read in the Bible that communicated that moral wisdom. In case you can’t tell from my previous 390 word rant, this is an injustice to the Christian tradition.
It Happens With Finances As Well
This type of injustice isn’t just something that happens within the Christian communities. It also happens within the financial realm. With the increase in technology and especially social networks, it is much easier to learn of other people’s financial situations. Whether it is someone buying their first home, having a baby, paying off debt, or whatever. It is easy to learn of other people’s financial situations. Much easier than it used to be.
With that increased awareness comes, unfortunately, increased judgment and inappropriate comparisons. For example, a friend of mine recently asked me to help her lease a car. Me, being the person who obsesses over numbers, I tried to figure out if it was the best financial decision available to her. I quickly pointed out that financially, it would make more sense to buy a slightly used car (or fix her current one) than lease a new car. That’s what I would do. Yet, what I failed to consider is that her life situation (or context) is much different than mine. While we are still friends (she understood my intentions were good), I have come to realize that it isn’t a bad decision based on her life. While I don’t need to go into the specifics of her reasoning here, suffice it to say that I learned that I had made large assumptions. I failed to realized that our finances were different. In a manner of speaking, I let me finances become to “soapy.”
People make these false assumptions about similar contexts all the time. When people see friends buying a home and instantly feel jealous, they fail to understand that it’s more complicated than it seems. The friends may have worked second jobs or went to graduate school to get a good-paying job to afford a nice house. Or it may be that they are buying too big of a house and they won’t be able to afford it. Before you feel jealous of their “success,” you need to realize that it’s hard to make comparisons. Period. There is never enough information to make a 1-to-1 comparison, and even if you get all the facts, there are going to be life differences that influence the financial decisions.
Therefore, before you jump to assumptions or develop feelings of jealousy or hatred over other people’s finances, remember that it’s not as easy to compare yourself to them. Everyone’s life is different and we have to learn to accept that fact.