That Darn Camel: Money Makes My Head Spin (But I Talk About It Anyway)

by Tim Fall

This is the third of a series of five posts exploring money and faith. The series title comes from this scripture verse: “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23 – 25)

Cabaret has that wonderfully avaricious song, Money, Money:

Money makes the world go around
The world go around
The world go around
Money makes the world go around
It makes the world go ’round.
A mark, a yen, a buck, or a pound
A buck or a pound
A buck or a pound
Is all that makes the world go around,
That clinking clanking sound
Can make the world go ’round.

The song gets worse, but it’s also quite accurate for those living out what Jesus warned against in Matthew 6:24: No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Paul’s assessment in 1 Timothy 6:9-10 fits too: “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”

I don’t really have an answer for money problems. I’m not a financial expert or budgeting wiz. I’ve read about those things, but I’ve never been able to do them. Instead, I try to keep it simple and live within my means. Since I’m married, it’s really two of us living within our means. I’m glad my wife is with me on this because she’s more careful about money than I am, and while we don’t have a strict budget she is able to keep an idea of how much we’ve got to spend at any given time. Sometimes I think she’s too careful, but she probably thinks I’m too frivolous.

That’s how she characterizes things sometimes when we talk about spending money. “I just don’t want us to be frivolous,” she’ll say. That doesn’t mean we never spend money on fun stuff. We take a vacation occasionally, eat out, see a show once in a while, but neither of us are big spenders by nature. And since we’re putting two kids through college right now (one graduating this month, woo-hoo!), it’s hard to justify big expensive purchases or payments anyway. In fact that’s a nice excuse not to spend a ton, and not thinking about spending a ton keeps my head from spinning around out of control.

So here’s how we do it. We talk about where the money goes. I don’t decide on my own, she doesn’t decide on her own. Sometimes, the two of us don’t reach a decision together either; of course, they say not deciding is a type of decision too. But when we do choose to shell out a biggish wad of cash, it’s because we’ve talked it through.

Sometimes our conversations are about vacations. Do we spend the money to go to family camp, rent a house on the coast with some friends, or just decide to stay home? Others have been about cars. Should we buy a car now or wait a while? If so, which car? (We haven’t bought new in years, by the way.) I know some families operate on the practice that the husband comes home with a car and that’s how the decision gets made. I’d rather walk than make a decision like that without my wife.

This type of conversation extends to who we give to as well. We get a lot of letters from people going on the mission field (short term and long), plus there’s church and other ministries and endless opportunities to give (remember what Jesus said about always having the poor among us?). It’s kind of enjoyable to talk about who to give to and how much for each. But again, neither of us has ever unilaterally chosen to give charitably. One of us might have a suggestion that prevails, but it is still talked about first.

In my work as a judge, one thing I’ve noticed in my courtroom is that families that don’t talk about money are more likely to end up in a legal dispute than those who do. It might be in a marriage dissolution, which can include child support issues or dividing up the family’s property. It might be in a will contest or trust proceeding, where one part of the family doesn’t trust what the other is doing with the money. It might be in a good old-fashioned theft case, where one person mistakenly thought they could trust another member of the family with an ATM card and password.

Speaking of work, a retired judge told me long ago, “I’ve found that more communication is almost always better than less.” I’ve taken that observation to heart, and I can tell you that it works in my marriage whether we’re talking about money or anything else. What also helps is to remember that it’s not money that makes the world go around, but God:

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17.)

Creating all things and holding them together, including us and all we are and all we have. Now that’s something worth talking about.

Tim is a California native who changed his major three times, colleges four times, and took six years to get a bachelor’s degree in a subject he’s never been called on to use professionally. Married for over 24 years with two kids now in college, his family is constant evidence of God’s abundant blessings in his life. He and his wife live in Northern California. Tim guest posts on other peoples’ blogs, but is too lazy to get a blog of his own.

About Ellen Painter Dollar

Ellen Painter Dollar is a writer focusing on faith, parenting, family, disability, and ethics. She is the author of No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Faith, and Parenthood in an Age of Advanced Reproduction (Westminster John Knox, 2012). Visit her web site at http://ellenpainterdollar.com for more on her writing and speaking, and to sign up for a (very) occasional email newsletter.

  • http://www.theradicaljourney.com Nick McDonald

    Great insights on the importance of couples talking about money, Tim! My wife and I just started a new budgeting software called “You need a budget” and we look over it at the beginning of the month. It’s funny – I typically do the financial stuff, and try to reign Brenna back from spending. Now that she’s part of the process, she’s been keeping me in check! I imagine our roles will keep fluctuating.

    • http://keriwyattkent.com/soul/?p=1161 Tim

      It’s great how communication and working together on things can actually lead to changed views, Nick, whether in handling money or any other part of our relationships. I think there’s an analogy there in our relationship with Christ, too. The more we enter into communion with God and act under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the more we conform to Christ, right?

      Tim

  • http://kingdomcivics.com Kim

    “In my work as a judge, one thing I’ve noticed in my courtroom is that families that don’t talk about money are more likely to end up in a legal dispute than those who do.” That’s interesting, and yet, it makes total sense. Like your judge friend (and like you, apparently), I subscribe to the “more is more” view of communication, and have found that, especially in financial matters, it is so important for Greg and me to stay on the same page. Sometimes that means one or the other of us has to compromise, but as long as our big goals are the same (such as: to honor God with our lives), the little compromises along the way aren’t that hard.

    • http://www.theruthlessmonk.com/too-good-to-be-true/ Tim

      The longer I’ve been married the more I’ve learned that not only aren’t the little compromises all that hard, they’re actually really enlightening. (“Oh yeah, now I see. That is a better idea!” I end up thinking this pretty often in our marriage.)

  • http://www.housewifetheologian.com Aimee Byrd

    You got me thinking at the end of your article about how often we communicate about money, and how often we communicate God’s glory in all things. It is so true that communication over financial issues in the home is key. Even more so, communication about the Giver of all things helps us to put it all in perspective and be grateful for the budget that we have. Thank you for the reminder.

    • http://keriwyattkent.com/soul/?p=1161 Tim

      What a great way to put it, Aimee, that God’s glory should inform all we do including how we view and use the resources he gives us.

      Tim

  • http://Janehinrichs.weebly.com Jane

    Tim, Nice post — but you know what I’d love to see you write on money — more on what you’ve learned from your observations as a judge using your Jesus filter.

    • http://keriwyattkent.com/soul/?p=1161 Tim

      Thanks, Jane. You know, the Spirit’s redemption of my job would be several articles, not just one!

      • http://www.ellenpainterdollar.com Ellen Painter Dollar

        I’m with Jane. As I read your post I thought that writing about what you’ve learned in your work about healthy relationships, healthy use of money, etc. (assuming that you often see the results of unhealthy practices) would be fascinating. Consider yourself to have a home here for any guest posts that might touch on that topic. I think it would be really interesting! And thanks for doing such a great job hosting the comments here on your piece, Tim. Our family life has been hijacked by a sick child and a sick cat this week so I’ve been unable to spend much time on writing. Nice job!

        • http://keriwyattkent.com/soul/?p=1161 Tim

          I hope everyone – kid and cat – are on the mend. Even when otherwise occupied you keep a wonderful site going here.

          My job certainly does give me a lot of opportunities to see and appreciate God’s grace. I recently wrote about one episode for Think Christian (http://thinkchristian.net/when-sex-sells-and-provides). So much of what I see is the human tragedy as opposed to what William Saroyan called the Human Comedy.

  • http://modernmrsdarcy.com Anne

    “Creating all things and holding them together, including us and all we are and all we have. Now that’s something worth talking about.”

    Yes! I love this, Tim. Money has been a leaping off point for so many wonderful discussions in my marriage. Money is connected in our minds to plans and hopes and dreams and ambitions.

    We’ve been married 12 years, and we’re pretty much (don’t laugh!) on the same page when it comes to money, and I think it’s largely because we took that judge’s advice: more communication is better than less. Well put.

    • http://www.theruthlessmonk.com/too-good-to-be-true/ Tim

      Anne, it is sop awesome that you came by! And I totally agree about money-talks being a great way to get into even deeper subjects. And aren’t there much deeper things to talk about even than money?

      Tim

  • KSP

    After many (ahem) years of marriage, I have very few regrets. If I had to pick one thing to do all over, it would be to get financial counseling from the get-go. :)

    Great post, Tim. Thanks for sharing the space, Ellen.

  • http://www.theruthlessmonk.com/too-good-to-be-true/ Tim

    That’s a good point, Karen. An early decision to deal with money together, and to do it smartly (whether through formal financial counseling or do-it-yourself books or just innate ability) is key.

    • KSP

      Yes, there are some excellent do-it-yourself books out there that can easily do the trick for early intervention.

  • http://seasonedjoy.com/ Sheila

    I think one of the things my husband & I do best in our marriage is talk about money. We’ve been married for almost 10 years, and from when we were just engaged we’ve discussed where we’ll spend, how much we’ll spend, what our overall priorities are, all that fun stuff. I’m not kidding with that word fun – it has been fun as we work through our individual priorities and make them mesh together to be family priorities.

    • http://keriwyattkent.com/soul/?p=1161 Tim

      I completely know what you mean about it being fun, Sheila. Having the resources and being like-minded about how to use them for others is a blast for me and my wife too!

      I remember reading about one older couple who had a lot of money and they set up a foundation for distributing it to those in need. Every Saturday night the couple would split up the mail and read through the letters they received that week asking for help. If a letter caught one’s eye, they handed it to the other. If they both got jazzed about it, that was the indication they should help out. They said it was the funnest night of the week.

      Tim

  • http://therakisrant.wordpress.com Victoria / Justice Pirate

    I like that this post is pretty straight forward and helpful for those who may have issues with communication and money. Long ago (well maybe not long ago, but long ago for my life), I was extremely materialistic. Every time I received a paycheck, I’d use some to pay off my car insurance (my parents never paid it for me like my friends’ parents had done) and the rest to spend on me me me. I was very selfish. The passage about the young rich man hit me hard in the head when I stopped working full time to become a stay-at-home housewife while 7 months pregnant with my first child. I was so convicted that I sold most of what I owned. We had 3 cars, now we share one. There were many things we downsized on and it was because we communicated things together, understood each other, and started exploring the Word of God more regularly. I still get very sad for people who remind me of myself from long ago. My mom was in shock to see the change in me because I was such a materialistic spoiled girl that I’d go into women’s purses (of people I knew gave me thing) trying to find toys or money for myself as a child. It was very sad. I think the biggest downfall in the US is materialism. It takes over our passion for serving Christ. It takes over our desire to do His will, because SELF has become our god. This is why I believe money is such a deep root of use for evil and makes it so hard for us to enter into heaven. We have become idol worshipers. It must be extremely difficult on you to have to deal with so many cases regarding money. :(

    • http://keriwyattkent.com/soul/?p=1161 Tim

      Victoria, it sounds like you are a living example of what it means to turn away from one master (money) in order to serve another (God). Your testimony is wonderful proof that God’s word – in this case Matthew 6:24 – is powerful truth. Thanks so much for giving us your story here.

      Tim

  • Pingback: Money Makes My Head Spin Around | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X