Living the American Dream

The Ripple Effect of Our Financial Choices

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Who are your financial role models?  Which of your relatives, friends, neighbors, or co-workers motivate you to make smart money moves?

For me, it isn’t the wealthy people I know who live in lavish homes or drive prestigious cars.  It isn’t the people who are always the first to own the latest gadgets.  It’s the people I know who live well within their means.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

When I was new to church and to figuring out the whole money thing, I attended some workshops about biblical money management.  The teacher was excellent.  He really knew his stuff.  But how he lived his life had an even greater influence on me than the content of his workshops.

By his appearance, I assumed he was either middle class or maybe upper middle class.  I happened to see him in the parking lot once and his car gave off the same impression.

Months later, I discovered that he made a lot of money.  A long time after that, I found out that he believes his gift for making money is primarily for the purpose of making a difference in the world.  He gives away over half of his income every year.

I haven’t been in touch with him for many years and yet his example continues to influence me.

What’s Permissible May Not Be Constructive

The Bible teaches us to look not just to our own interests, but also to the interests of others and also to set a good example for others.  Have you ever thought about the way your financial decisions influence others?

I’m not saying we’re responsible for the decisions other people make or that we should feel guilty about using money in ways that give us pleasure, but I am saying that people notice how we use money, and it would be good for us to consider what impact our financial choices are having on others.

Are there any ways that our financial decisions may be influencing others to make bad financial decisions?  Are any of our financial choices creating distance between others and us?

The Bible says that even though something may be permissible it may not be constructive.

I once heard a preacher say he thought it was a sin for a person to drive a BMW.  I completely disagree (and I don’t even drive a BMW!).  It’s impossible for us to draw clear lines, saying this is too large a house or that is too prestigious a car.  But I do think it’s wise for us to consider the potential impact on others of the financial decisions we make.

Who are some of your positive financial role models and how have their choices influenced you?  Have you ever thought about how your financial decisions may be impacting others?

The first post I write each month explores the practical applications of what the Bible teaches about money. Here’s why.

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Categories: Faith & Finances

3 Responses to “The Ripple Effect of Our Financial Choices”

  1. Jessica says:

    This is a really great reminder. My parents are STILL paying off their house and debt. It impacted my financial decisions of thinking I could live on credit and that being a part of everything was more important than saying no. I’m so happy that I’ve figured out that there is a more responsible way to participate in my community and with family and friends. I am finally making gains toward being a responsible citizen. It will make it so much easier to teach our children to be responsible when we can SHOW them instead of just telling them.

  2. Matt Bell says:

    Jessica – As you point out so well, there are good role models in our life and there are BAD role models. But I guess we can learn constructive lessons from both, and it sounds like you’re making the most of some bad modeling you’re received.

  3. Laquetta says:

    Loved the article! I’m proof. After an ugly divorce, 4 kids and no child support, I learned to cut back. For instance, we started camping for a week at the beach just 40 miles away. The family group got bigger. Now, 25 years later, we are still camping every summer and my adult children come from other states to camp with us. Other savings – borrowed books and movies from the library, shopped the thrift store for clothes, cooked at home, paid cash and avoided interest, attended community events, ushered for local theater to see the play for free, mowed our own yards, washed our own car, created parties with a theme and invited people over, and most importantly, kept our sense of humor and helped others laugh.

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