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Chaplain’s Corner: Money Matters…

BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, East Granby, Conn. -- My dad told me, "Money isn't everything. But it is way ahead of whatever is in second place." Someone else said, "Money can't buy happiness. But how much happiness do you think poverty can buy?"

It seems that whatever income level we are at, we could always use just a little more money. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, it seems that income abhors a surplus. We tend to live at the edge or beyond the edge of our means. The cost of our lifestyle mysteriously grows along with our income. Things we once could not afford, we cannot now do without. Our needs typically exceed our ability to pay cash.

Credit cards and advertisers know exactly how to create a need and then exploit it. "You deserve it!" "Why wait?" Or my personal favorite, "Avoid disappointment and future regret-- buy now while supplies last!" The guy was selling a plastic model car! What kind of life would regret not having a plastic car in it, however well crafted that plastic car might be?

But we all still have to deal with finances. And surveys indicate that most of us have issues when it comes to money. Most Americans are in debt. And in case you have not noticed, money issues are a HUGE stressor in many relationships.

I am no money magician, but money management isn't magic. Experts agree: "Spend less than you earn." Sounds simple, doesn't it? It may take a decade of living on our own to learn the difference between real needs and wants. This will likely happen faster if you are not living alone. And reality will crash in even sooner if children are in the picture.

If your fixed expenses exceed your income, you need to earn more-- or you need to reduce your fixed expenses. In our culture, lots of money is wasted on cars, fashion, media and high tech toys. Haven't you seen people spend an extra sixteen thousand dollars on a newer car in order to save $800 a year on gas?

And have you noticed that we don't actually save any money when we buy something on sale? Perhaps we spend less; but we don't save anything. Ironically, we may be spending more, because we wouldn't have spent anything at all if the item wasn't on sale. (Neat retail gimmick, isn't it?)

I know two men who worked so hard earning money "for their families" that they lost their families because they were never home. One was a truck driver, the other a surgeon. The money issue cuts across all levels of education and vocation. What does it matter if we become as rich as we dream, but lose everything that has real value?

I know a guy who was working his way up in the corporate world. He walked out in the middle of an interview for a vice-president's position at a fruit company and went into the ministry. He told me it all came down to one statement during the interview; "We are looking for a man who will dedicate his life to a better banana." When it was stated so bluntly and honestly, he realized that his life needed a higher purpose.

Live your life on purpose. Know your values. Remember that life is not about money, but it is all about relationships: the relationship you have with yourself, with your God and with others. If you don't live with that understanding, you will cultivate regret. If you are fortunate to add health and meaningful work to sound relationships, consider yourself really blessed. But you are still going to have to learn how to handle money responsibly.