It’s the end of 2015 and the start of 2016. As I have to start budgeting for my day job, I can’t help but think of the way I do my personal budgets as well. What drives it? What drives how I save money or what I do to earn it? You see, the vision for a company (it’s identity) and it’s core values intersect to create the budgeting rationale when planning for the year. So, for myself and my family, what is our vision/identity and core values that determines our budget? Not only the budget for money, but also the “time budget” as well…
So a typical thinking process would go… I need food, I need money to send my kids to school (perhaps a good school), I need money for hobbies (they are expensive!), I need money for holidays, I need to pay off my car, house, etc… So I’ll earn this much. And I’ll spend this much time earning it. Whatever time I’ve got left over I’ll try to spend with my family. But I feel like having “me” time as well. So I take some time off my family and put it into the “me time” category for my time budget. Whatever time left over, if I have energy left, I’ll maybe do some religious things… Maybe go to church, bible study, read, etc…
The above process is how one consciously or even subconsciously budget their money and time distribution. And yet, society and social media tells us that we need to value relationships. Rest. Value family, etc… If you are a Christian, then we are told we need to value Christ above all else. How is this possible? The vision and values are completely reversed! It contradicts each other. How can you be so fixated on a comfortable house, big holidays, fancy cars, good schools and expensive hobbies and still have time and energy left over for God let alone relationships, rest or family??? In the consulting world we call this a perverse incentive.
“A perverse incentive is an incentive that has an unintended and undesirable result which is contrary to the interests of the incentive makers. Perverse incentives are a type of unintended consequence.” – Wikipedia
“Wait, wait, hold up!”, you might say… “I’m only doing this now so that I can enjoy later.” Or “I’m earning so that my kids enjoy a better life.” Or perhaps you’re thinking, “Merv, It’s just only for a season. When I’m young and abled, I’ll work hard, tough it out, and enjoy later”…
Later? *Que entry of cancers, illnesses, tragic accidents, divorces, broken relationships with teenage kids, broken relationships with other family members*… At what expense?
And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” – (Luke 12:16-21 ESV)
I apologise if this post seems too sad and negative. But in the last few months, I’ve been really effected by this “rat race”. I also know personally of friends that got effected by separations, cancer and death. Statements like “I’ll work hard now and enjoy later”, “I’m saving for my kids to give them a good life”, “l’m young and able now” all don’t stack up to being worth it in the end when relationships are broken beyond repair or when illness or tragedy strikes and violently takes away any time left that you think you have.
As Christians, our lips say “Christ-centered”. Or “Gospel-centeredness” seems to be the buzz word these days. But what this actually mean? If our identity is truly centered in Christ, then really, we should value what Christ values. We should put what he cares about first. That is to love him and to love others. To love others means to value relationships and family above material things. This might then mean to redefine the value of “good”. To redefine contentment. Do we really need the big house, car, holiday or expensive hobby equipment? Do we really need our kids in the best private schools?
You see, to start with your physical needs and tell yourself what you “need” is good, before even thinking about a good church is opposite to what the bible says. The right way around is to “budget” our lives around Christ, good biblical teaching, surround ourselves with a good Church family and prioritise the love for people and relationships over spending time at the “office”. Sure we do need to work to earn money to live. But we don’t need lots of it to love others and God with. Do a “stock take” of you life… Like running a company with an auditor looking in… If someone were to look at your family accounts of both money in bank statements and of time spent over the last year. Will this “life auditor” see your core value and identity as “Christ-centered” or “world/money-centered”? Friends, our values shapes our lives and how we live , and how we live shows to others our values. What is it? Christ-centered Or World-centered?
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” – (Matthew 6:24 ESV)