Personal finance is, well, personal. My experiences, my fears, and yes, even my faith, all influence my behavior—good or bad.
Today, I want to share with you how my religious beliefs affect my financial decisions.
And just so you know, what I’m about to say are my opinions and mine alone.
Though occasionally misidentified as an atheist, I’m actually a Christian. (We won’t get into whether my lifestyle is consistent with Christ’s teachings–we’ll let God judge me.) As a Christian, I learned it’s my religious duty to pay a tithe, i.e., 10% of my income, to my house of worship.
I don’t anymore, but at one point, I adhered to this requirement. Not only did I shell out a full 10% of my gross income to the church I attended, but I frequently gave an offering on top of that. I never calculated the exact amount; however I estimate at least 15% of my after-tax income enriched my church’s coffers.
The amount of money I gave away directly impacted my finances. After all, if I opted to invest that money instead of donating it, I’d still have the principal and any interest earned on the balance. It’s also possible—heck, likely even—I would’ve squandered the extra cash on frivolous purchases. That’s neither here nor there.
Of course, money isn’t everything. If I could go back in time, I’d still give 10% of my salary to charity. I just would’ve donated more of it to organizations that were better, more transparent, stewards over their donors’ contributions. Whether I give because it’s a spiritual obligation or because I genuinely want to help the less fortunate, I’m burdened with the task of reducing the likelihood my money is blown on wasteful programs.
I’ve been told that God answers prayers. Over the years, I tested this assertion countless times. What I discovered might surprise you. God does, indeed, answer prayers. He just doesn’t always respond with the answer you want. Knowing this, I try to deal with my problems without getting God involved.
As a kid, I’d often check in with my mom to see if she saved any money to pay for my college education. Without fail, she’d say, “Leave it in the hands of the Lord, and He’ll work it out.” Aaaaargh! You have no idea how much her apathetic approach toward my future well-being infuriated me. I couldn’t understand how she could place so much faith in a being other than herself.
Now when I talk to my mom about her position, she simply says, “Well, He worked it out, didn’t He?” *Sigh* Don’t get me wrong; I feel tremendously blessed. And I can say with absolute confidence that many of the luxuries I enjoy were obtained through no doing of my own. But I can’t ignore the fact that I’ve been an active participant in my life.
Like most people who’ve acquired even an ounce of success, I worked for it.
A former pastor said something that always stayed with me. He said, “You do what you can do in the natural, and let God take care of the super natural.” As a result, I don’t live my life expecting daily miracles. And when I’m faced with a situation I can’t control, I garner peace knowing I’m not alone.
My doubts, as much as my beliefs, guide my choices.
As you’re probably aware, Christians believe in an afterlife. How you live your first life will determine where you spend your second life. Heaven sounds really awesome, but hell . . . not so much.
Personally, I’ve never experienced either, so I’d be lying if I told you I’m 100% certain they’re real. Because there’s a chance that the life I have now is all I will ever have, I want to make the most of it. Which means, I can’t settle for okay. I won’t accept satisfactory. I must seek fulfillment.
One of my primary motivations for leaving my job was to pursue a profession I absolutely loved. I’ll tell anybody, I didn’t hate accounting. I adored my former employer. I garnered a reasonable compensation for the work I performed. That wasn’t enough for me.
Sometimes life is short. Since I didn’t (and still don’t) know when mine will end, I took a risk that might’ve been much less appealing if I completely believed an opportunity for a do-over exists.
How does your faith (or lack thereof) affect your finances?