By Monica deRegt
Money. The mere word conjures up many images and emotions, ranging widely from very pleasant to outright depressing. I'm going to assume (it's a wild guess, I know) that money wasn't exactly the drawing card for most of you in the decision to enter youth ministry. It's not like you see many people in youth ministry driving fancy cars or living in big houses or going on exotic vacations. But of course, money doesn't buy happiness, so that shouldn't matter..., right? And the love of money is the root of all evil, after all, so we are obviously avoiding that particular pitfall. Good on us,....right?
Well, in my honest opinion, money might not buy happiness, but it sure can borrow some great times and an enjoyable lifestyle. And the lack of money can sure bring on some pretty unhappy situations. And while I know I am not supposed to "love" money, I'll admit I wouldn't mind if it's presence wasn't too scarce in my life. But the reality is my spouse and I have been called into youth ministry, which doesn't exactly put us on the track to financial prosperity.
So what to do? (Apart from casually slipping online lawyer degree flyers into his youth ministry magazines!) I know I struggle with a materialistic side, and perhaps not all of you do, but as I am slowly coming to some understandings in this area, I thought I may as well share!
First of all, bitterness and resentment get you nowhere. This has been an ongoing lesson that I keep having to re-learn. Comparing your situation to others above you will never make you feel better, so why would you willingly subject yourself to more disappointment? It's certainly not going to suddenly make a money tree start growing on your lawn. Besides, you never know the "whole" story behind those people who supposedly have so much more than you do. They may be facing debt, insecurity, broken relationships, or any number of things. What you see is not always what you get, so it's not fair to assume their life is better than yours based solely on financial appearances. Yes, it is hard to accept that our society places so little financial value on the position that your spouse is probably committing their whole life to, but if you had to put a financial value to his/her youth ministry career, where would you stop? That's where we remind ourselves, it cannot possibly be about money. Placing a financial value to youth ministry would cheapen the depth of the invaluable mission that you and your spouse have been called to.
Secondly, get back to God about it. No, don't start quoting scripture verses to yourself about the evils of wealth as a way of guilting yourself into a better attitude. Rather, spend time in God's Word on a regular basis, pour your heart out to Him, and allow Him to fill your heart and mind with things from above. This isn't easy, even though the benefits are so obviously worth it. For me, it starts out as great intentions, and after 2 mornings of wonderful devotion times, inevitably one of the kids wakes up early or something gets in the way and before I know it 2 weeks fly by without another thought of doing it again, yet somehow I manage to get on Facebook and watch television...no wonder I am easily swayed to my materialistic side. I am learning to fit this in, no matter how brief, no matter how tired I am, whether I've got a baby on my lap or not . My point is--if you are filling your mind with the richness of what God has to offer you, you will not be so aware of the earthly riches that are escaping your reach. And when you present your heart to God, He will bless you and may even surprise you with things far better than you could imagine.
Another thing to consider is what you can do about it, practically speaking. Are you using the (albeit limited) resources you are given wisely? As a couple, we have had to take many hard looks at where our money is actually going when we start complaining that things are getting too tight. It's not usually a case of "not enough cash", and more often a case of "not enough discipline." Maybe we don't need memberships to three different clubs/organizations, maybe we could cut back on those increasingly frequent drive-through trips, or (gasp!) maybe we could eat no-name brand a little more often. There are endless ways to creatively save money. It seems like a sacrifice, and it's easy to feel that we "deserve" more, but by living a little more frugally you can make a big difference in the tightness of your budget. And never underestimate the powerful lessons this will teach your own children and even the youth you are ministering to, about being good stewards of what you have been given, and living in contentment. We can often justify our desire for more money by saying we want to give our children more opportunities, but the reality is that wealth and indulgence can produce laziness and a sense of entitlement, which are characteristics no one should wish for their child.
And lastly, when I'm really feeling the pinch, I just have to remind myself that I'd probably rather be facing this trial than attempting to become a camel-taming magician! (See Matthew 19:24)
I know that this is an issue that will most likely be a lifelong struggle for me. But as time goes on, and these truths slowly get past my stubborn nature, there are so many ways I feel blessed by not being financially wealthy. God has a lot to teach me yet, but I am working on being a willing student. Sometimes you just need to look at the other side of the coin!