They say polite people never discuss money, sex or religion. I guess I’m not very polite. It seems to me that money, sex and religion are the only three really interesting subjects. Maybe that’s why polite people are so boring.
I found myself worrying about money the other day. I’m privileged to be parish priest of the poorest and smallest parish in town. We’re situated in an area of the city with the most difficult demographic in socio-economic terms. We’re trying to build a splendid new church. Our school buildings are fifty years old and leaky. Our existing buildings are used over capacity and we work on half the budget and manpower we really need. So I worry about money sometimes.
But, as my Sunday School teacher used to say, “Why worry when you can pray?” Praying about your money problems really does help to sort them out. First, by praying you begin to better discern what life is all about and therefore what money is all about. By praying you understand priorities and therefore what you should spend your money on and how it should be used.
To pray about money worries also helps because you begin to realize what money is for. It’s not for buying more toys and trinkets. Your money is given to you for you to be a good steward. Therefore the first thing you do with money is make your tithe. Yep. First thing you do before anything else–before taxes, before the mortgage, before the groceries even is to give your tithe to God.
When you make your tithe you are telling your money who’s boss. You’re saying to your money, “I’m the boss, and to prove it I’m giving you away. I’m not clinging to you because when I cling to you you cling to me. You enslave me.” I’m going to be financially free, and to attain that attitude I am going to give sacrificially and live sacrificially. Whew! Try doing that sometime! Experience the exhilaration of writing a chunky check for $1,000.00 or $100.00 or $10,000.00 or $10,000,000.00–whatever is chunky for you.
Some people say the tithe is 10%. I’m not in favor of a blanket rate. Some people can really, honestly only afford 5% or less. Others can afford a very large percentage. When I was growing up as an Evangelical I remember people talking about a billionaire who made loads of money making bulldozers. In his lifetime he was criticized for his luxurious lifestyle. When he died they realized he gave away 90% of his income and lived like a prince on 10%. That’s why we don’t judge or demand a set percentage, but call the faithful to give generously and to tithe a determined amount.
The second principle for financial peace and prosperity is to spend the money on people not stuff. Buy other people presents–not yourself. Invest in charitable efforts. Invest in Catholic education. Invest in your kids and your family. Take people out to eat. Practice hospitality. People are going to last forever. Nothing else will. If you invest in people you will have plenty of friends and plenty of peace and plenty of prosperity.
So what do I mean by prosperity? Not necessarily wealth, but a prosperous and generous outlook on life. The prosperous person has plenty even if he does not have a lot. It is possible therefore to be wealthy but not prosperous just as it is possible to be poor and prosperous.
Do you want to not worry about money? Live with prayer, live with peace and live with prosperity. If you live that way you will achieve financial freedom and you’ll sleep well at night.