by Tim Howington
Managing Yourself When There is No Money to Manage
I attended a college meeting once where the speaker asked for a couple of volunteers from the audience to come and illustrate a point he was making. He chose a big burly football player and a petite cheerleader type gal. He had a large clear pitcher of water, filled to the rim. He handed this to the cheerleader and told her that her task was to keep the water from spilling out of the pitcher. He then told the football player that his task was to make her spill the water. Well, as you can guess the football player was successful. The speaker then turned to the audience and asked “why did water spill out of the pitcher?” The audience was split: some said it was her fault; some said it was his. Then the speaker made a profound statement that I have never forgotten. He said, “Water spilled out of the pitcher because water was in the pitcher.” He then went on to explain that life will bump us from time to time and whatever is in our hearts will spill out.
The inspiration of this book is a 12 month period that was hellacious for me financially. And I am more than a little embarrassed by what spilt out of me from time to time. You would think that a guy who has been following Christ for over 30 years would be more mature. It all started with an unexpected separation from a job at 50 years of age. After a couple of months of job hunting, I landed in a non-profit with an old friend ministering to people who are trying to get their finances in line (which is a little ironic, if you think about it). I have spent most of my adult life in the non-profit sector and am very familiar that there is a trade-off when it comes to income vs. the reward of helping people. I love the idea of ministry and am very motivated by the sense of cause that comes with it. But if you had told me that my first year would be as challenging financially as it has been I might have just kept moving right on past that job offer. One of the results of my struggle, though, is this manuscript that I hope will minister to your heart as it has to mine.
Financial stress is not for the faint of heart. Nothing in my life threatens to undo me more than money problems. When things are going my way, my spirit is happy-go-lucky. I am generous and sometimes even others-centered. But, let the money get tight, and I can get downright testy and unbelievably self-absorbed. Just ask my family! Let the money issues linger over a period of time and I am susceptible to falling to the temptation of cursing God. Why are You doing this to me?
There is no doubt that this area causes even the most mature among us to pause. Case and point: Job. When Satan was given permission to test Job, he immediately attacked him in regards to his stuff. The evil one’s strategy was simple: if he was allowed to ransack what Job possessed, then Job would curse God. Some think that this is a once upon a time temptation that faced a man of antiquity. But I think we would be naive to think that we don’t face the same kind of challenge today. As an aside: there is a big lesson in there about how our enemy feels about us. He didn’t just attack Job a little, but tried to take him out all at once. Jesus describes Satan as a thief who wants to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10). Given the opportunity, he would devour us as well. We must stay alert!
Managing my heart (my mind, my will and my emotions) becomes the challenge in times when there is no money to manage. Going through trying financial times forces us to answer an interesting question: can I trust God? It is during these times that we get a chance to see what is really going on inside of us. And money problems gives us a unique front row seat view of our own soul.
The long and the short of it is simply an issue of trust. Can you and I trust God? Can you and I trust Him to make all things work out for good in our lives? This is the essence of the faith walk: trust. Without faith (trust) it is impossible to please Him and faith (trust) is in its very nature a belief in things we cannot see. If you and I have to walk by sight, we will struggle in the faith walk. And if I am honest, it is at this point that I struggle. Can I trust Him? In the case of the believer going through financial issues, the main thing that spills out of us is how we view God.
1 Corinthians 10:13 says this clearly “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.” This means that we all undergo the same kind of trials: which includes financial trials. The verse goes on to say, “And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” God will not give us more than we can stand when it comes to financial trial (though I am sure that Job felt like he had gotten the raw end of the deal when Satan swooped in and took everything all at the same time including his children).
Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd who has come that we may have life, and have it to the full. To live that kind of abundant life we must learn to manage our heart. Proverbs 4:23 encourages us to “above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life”. In Biblical terms, the heart of man referred to his most inward self. Specifically the heart refers to our mind, our will and our emotions. If we can bring these three components under the Lordship of Christ in tough financial times we stand a chance to navigate the trial.
Maybe you will run through this old world unscathed by the struggles of money-less-ness. But most of us will not. Trials come in many shapes and sizes, but managing yourself when there is no money to manage is one of the most common. In the next few chapters we will try to examine how we can manage our hearts in tough financial times.