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By profession, I am the guy who provides leadership over the finances of Wheaton Bible Church. And while I believe God has called me to this position, there is another significant responsibility to which I have also been called: being the father to my three sons. Early in my role as a father, God laid it on my heart that He could accomplish more for His Kingdom through those three sons than He could through me. In light of that understanding, I made a commitment to spending time with them, both individually and together as a family, in order to disciple them and prepare them for the future.
My wife, Sue, and I have had the privilege of sharing many truths of God’s Word with our children, and because we recognize how important it is to get our financial priorities “right,” one key area we wanted to teach them—and have tried to model for them—is how to handle money.
The question we always wonder about as parents is whether the lessons we’ve taught are “sticking.” For that reason, I recently took an informal survey of our sons, and asked Paul, Jeremy, and Jonathan—who are now adults and no longer living at home—some key questions related to those important money lessons we tried to teach.
MY FIRST QUESTION: What are the best financial lessons I’ve learned from my dad?
Jonathan, our tech guru and a junior at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, emailed this response: “The best financial lesson I’ve learned from my dad is to spend my money wisely. Part of spending money wisely is evaluating what expenses/purchases take precedence over others. For example, I may want to buy some cool new gadget or guitar equipment, but I know that buying books for school, for example, is more important than those other things. I’ve learned to plan out purchases in advance and look at the impact they will have on my long-term money situation.” God laid it on my heart that He could accomplish more for His Kingdom through those three sons than He could through me.
Second-born, Jeremy, a certified public accountant and our artist, offered an equally affirming response: “You taught me,” he began, “the importance of saving at a young age with that cool little metal bank thing. It made saving fun. Second, when I got my first credit card, you clearly explained to me that it was my responsibility to pay the balance in full and not to buy anything on credit if I didn’t have the money in the bank to pay for it.”
“One of the most influential lessons you taught me as a kid,” he said next, “was how to track my finances. While I may not have enjoyed entering data into Quicken at the time, looking back, I see it was one of the greatest lessons you taught me. Having that history to look back on and see where I was spending my money was eye-opening—to see where my money was actually going and what I could do to improve my financial position looking forward. You’re able to tell your money where to go instead of being surprised when you realize you have none!”
Paul, our oldest, a commercial pilot and a Mr. Fixit, had this response: “First, remember whose money it really is—God’s. I’m just a steward. Second, relationships are always more important than things. Don’t spend so much on something that it prevents you from doing things as a family. Third, don’t compromise quality just because you’d like something right now. Unless the situation requires that you purchase something immediately, save up your money so you can buy quality later. Fourth, paying off debts more quickly can save you money in the long run, as well as free you from being enslaved to the debt.”
By this point, I was beaming as I read the emails to Sue—thrilled that so much of what we tried to build into our boys’ lives had been understood and remembered!
MY SECOND QUESTION: Why is it so important to get our money ‘right’?
PAUL: “Your attitude toward money will often affect all other areas of your life. It goes without saying that if you spend more than you make, you’ll quickly go into debt. The problem with debt is that it not only can prevent you from doing things in the future but also make you a slave to the lender. On the other hand, if you make earning lots of money your top priority, you’ll likely spend all your time at work and miss out on relationships with others. It can also cause you to hold back from giving to God, as well as to others.
And if you do give, it will likely be the bare minimum or the leftovers . . . just enough to satisfy your conscience. Either way, not handling your money right affects your relationship with God. Spend too much on yourself, and you’ll have little left to give to God. God wants your heart, and it’s impossible to give Him your whole heart if it’s consumed by money. As Matthew 6:21 says, ‘‘Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
JEREMY: “From a spiritual standpoint, it’s important to get our money ‘right’ because it’s the money that God has entrusted to us. Everything is His, and we’re just the stewards of what He has given us. I think of it as being the investment broker for God’s assets, and we’ll need to give a report to Him of how we managed the portfolio, just like in the parable of the talents.” God wants your heart, and it’s impossible to give Him your whole heart if it’s consumed by money.
JONATHAN: “It is so important to get our money ‘right’ because it’s so easy to find more and more stuff to buy and as a result spend more than you have. God doesn’t want us to live with financial burdens, so that’s why He talks about money so often in the Bible. He wants us to use the money He provides for us to further His Kingdom first and foremost.”
As a father, I was delighted to read these emails from Paul, Jeremy, and Jonathan—and I am even more pleased by how I see them using the financial resources God has entrusted to them.
Receiving these kinds of positive responses from my sons gave me a taste of how much joy we bring to our heavenly Father when we not only understand what He’s communicating in His Word, but also, even more, when we make that truth part of our daily lives.