In economically anxious times, how can we speak of financial wellbeing?
We struggle to make our piles of pennies meet the mountains of expenses. We stress about costs spiraling higher. Worry, angst, anxiety. On average, married couples argue about financial issues three times a month.
Yet here’s what the Gallup wellbeing study has to say about financial wellbeing: “What we found was that financial security – the perception that you have more than enough money to do what you want to do – has three times the impact of your income alone on overall wellbeing.” (Wellbeing, p 63).
Yeah, so? I knew that already. I need more money.
Read the quote more closely.
The survey data talks about perception rather than raw income. That’s a very important difference. Having lots of money does not make worries vanish. The wealthy still worry about money.
Isn’t it interesting that lottery players who “hit the jackpot” can still end up with ruined lives?
Here’s the thing. Money is not an end goal, at least not one that brings health and joy. Money is not a scorecard, at least not one that measures true worth.
Money is a tool. A resource. An instrument in our hands.
True artists know how to make an instrument do many things. They understand both the flexibility and the limitations of an instrument. Through their instruments, they can create things that inspire the rest of us gape with wonder.
True craftsmen understand that the quality of the tools only goes so far. Fine precision instruments in the hands of a thoughtless hack will produce little of lasting value.
Money is an instrument. The wise are those virtuoso players who deploy each penny as a part of their plan, their craftsmanship, their art.
The most important phrase in the quote above is not “more than enough money….” Rather it is: “…to do what you want to do.” Do you know what you want? Is it something worth wanting?
What if what is worth wanting is nothing more than knowing and serving the right master?
“… for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through [Christ] who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
Unless we consciously and continually give ourselves to a better master, we default to fashioning little masters from the stuff of our lives. Money is a fine tool, but a cruel master.
Soli Deo Gloria