When I was a boy, I was involved in a small business as part of a 4-H Club project. By buying and selling lambs, including showing them at the county fair as an opportunity to make sales, I was able to generate a profit and have money in my pocket at the end of fair week.
I well remember walking around the fairgrounds with feelings of confidence and positive self-worth as a result of the money in my pocket. I felt good about myself.
One time I spent quite a bit of money at the fair. My feelings of confidence and self-worth were damaged as the cash dwindled away. I felt worse about myself. But was I really any different than when I had the money?
As I reflect on that time in my youth, I realize that I had already bought the world’s lie that my worth as a person had something to do with the amount of money I had. Like so many people, I didn’t know the truth about money.
Money is not a component of self-worth
If I believe that my self-worth is related to the money I have, then my self-worth will vacillate depending on my income and net worth. I will tend to feel that I’m of value only if I make a certain amount of income. Such false thinking is totally contrary to what the Scripture says about who we are in Christ and the ultimate source of our income.
We don’t need to look very far in the Bible to see how valuable we are in God’s view. In the very first chapter we see God, the Creator of the universe, considering man of such value and worth that He chose to create him in His own image and according to His likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). And in Psalm 8:3-6 we read:
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet.
In the New Testament, we see again that we are God’s workmanship, hand-fashioned by Him (Ephesians 2:10). We also see the ultimate expression of our worth to Him in John 3:16: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
That means we’re each worth an incredible amount to God. Clearly, from God’s point of view our value has nothing to do with our net worth or the income we earn. Our merit has everything to do with who we are in Christ and what God says about us.
You and I have a choice. We can believe what God says or we can believe what the world says. God says that we are valuable whether we have much or little money.
If we want healthy marriages, we must learn to detach our self-worth from our money. This is especially true for husbands. Scripture tells us that we men need to love our wives as our own bodies (Ephesians 5:28). And if I’m going to love the way God intends, I need to embrace my worth as a beloved child of God. If I allow money to be a factor in my self-image, I run the risk of having my love and devotion to my spouse vacillate with my income. I can’t afford to take that risk if I want harmony in my marriage. Neither can you.
Money is not a measure of success
God has equipped and called each of us to uniquely fill the myriad jobs He needs done to fulfill His purposes. Therefore, God ultimately determines my income. My income isn’t so much a function of my success or failure as it is just one part of my God-appointed vocation.
I don’t want to discount that an excellent job on your part may cause you to earn more than someone else who doesn’t work as excellently or diligently in the same vocation. My caution to you is to be careful not to believe your ability is generating your income.
Deuteronomy 8:17-18 is clear on this point: “Otherwise, you say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth.” If you’re having difficulty accepting the idea that God is providentially in control of your income, consider these Scriptures:
- “The rich and the poor have a common bond, the Lord is the maker of them all” (Proverbs 22:2).
- “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).
- “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17).
Remember too that life is full of financial inequities, just as Solomon reminds us: “I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11).
The world tells us one sign of success is how much money we make. But it’s better to understand that we’re successful if we are making progress in accomplishing our goals. Money may be one result of our endeavors, but it should never be the standard in determining whether success has occurred. Interestingly, the words “prosperity” and “prosperous” have basically the same meaning as success. Joshua 1:8 says:
This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have success.
I’m only successful and prosperous to the extent that I’m being obedient and carefully doing all that God’s Word says to do. For example, I’m successful as I train and love my children (Ephesians 6:4; Deuteronomy 6:6-7), love my wife (Ephesians 5:28), and work hard (Colossians 3:23). Joshua 1:8 doesn’t guarantee or promise financial blessings if I do what God’s Word says. Rather, it frees me to realize that I can be successful and prosperous whether or not I have money.
Money is not the barometer! A successful person may or may not have money. A person with money may or may not be a success.
The things important to God
Years ago, a friend of mine began developing and growing a very profitable business. It soon went public, and my friend was acclaimed a success by his industry and the media. Everybody wanted a piece of the action. His net worth was in the millions, and in the world’s eyes he was a success.
As the years wore on, however, this man’s business declined. Although my friend did all he could to keep the business afloat, it eventually went bankrupt. My friend’s net worth plummeted. Was my friend still a success? Many would probably say no because the world’s measuring stick is money, and he no longer had financial wealth. However, I knew better.
During that time frame, my friend made more progress in the things that are important to God than most people knew. His relationship with his family and the Lord improved dramatically. He had significant impact on other people’s lives. He was still a success when his money was gone because he had made progress in accomplishing many of the goals God says are important.
Much of the stress in our marriages is a result of using money as a measuring stick to determine our level of success. We need to change our standard of measuring success from money to what God’s Word says.