What Do You Value?
If asked “What do you value the most in life?” I’m sure you would have a rush of thoughts going through your mind. While some of us would be tempted to think of material things, I have a feeling that after a few seconds of contemplation, most of us would settle back on other important parts of life like family and friends, even our church or God. While this question may come across as one of those self-reflection feel-good-about-what-you-ultimately-decided type of questions, it does have serious implications in how we live our lives and especially how we conduct ourselves financially.
What we truly value the most will ultimately affect how we make financial decisions. So, if you really want to know what you value the most, all you need to do is look at the history of your spending. As Jesus says in Luke 12:34 – “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” It goes both ways and where your heart is, there your money also will be. Warning: Your spending history may not provide you with the results you were hoping to find.
It all goes back to the old adage that tells us to “follow the money.” Money seldom lies when it tells a story. For example, if you want to see what influences a politician, you can follow the trail of donations to see if anyone will have a large influence over that politician’s decisions. If you want to understand a business, you can look at their financials to see if money is being used for future development of the company or if the current owners are pulling the profits out with little regard for the future. In the same way, if someone picked up your financial records, what you value most would soon be obvious.
Once we figure out the story that our money is telling about the desires of our heart, we need to compare that to what scripture tells us we should value. Christ gave us two parables that shed some light on this topic.
The Parable of the Hidden Treasure
Matthew 13:44 – “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
I won’t get into all the little details of the parable in this article, but what we see here is an illustration of the Gospel. We first need to understand that a parable is a story used to illustrate a principle. In this case the principle is about the value of the Kingdom of God. A man wasn’t looking for a treasure (the kingdom), but when he found it, he realized just how valuable it was. It says that “in his joy” he sells everything he owns and buys the field so he can have the treasure. If you follow the trail of this guy’s money, there’s no question what he values the most. It’s clearly the treasure, which is the kingdom of heaven.
The Parable of the Pearl of Great Value
Matthew 13:45-46 – “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
This parable immediately follows the first one and explains the same principle with a slight twist. In the first story, we see a guy that finds a treasure he wasn’t looking for. In this one, we see a merchant that was searching for the thing that he found. Some people, like Paul, find Christ without searching, others are already searching when they find Him. As with the first parable, we see that once the merchant found the item of great value, he sold all he had to buy it. There was nothing in his life worth more to him.
The lesson to learn from both of these parables is the priceless value of the Kingdom. It is without a doubt the most valuable thing we can ever find. When we find salvation through Christ (the Kingdom), it is worth so much that we’ll gladly give up everything else we have to get it. In some cases, we’ll even need to give up the things that we thought were good answers to the initial question in this article. In Matthew 10:37-39 we read “Whoever loves father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who doesn’t take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it. He who loses his life for My sake will find it.”
If Christ is really so valuable, we need to have a moment of self reflection and see if our daily lives mirror that belief. What will you find when you follow your own money trail? If you love money and things more than Christ, you risk being like the illustration found in the Parable of the Sower. We read in Matthew 13:22, “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.”
Another account of such a person is also found in the parable of the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-30, where Jesus pointed out how the young ruler loved his possessions more than Christ. In this example, the ruler went away sad because he wasn’t willing to give up his riches in exchange for Christ. He obviously had a desire for Christ because he was sad over failing Jesus’ test, but there’s no way he understood the true value of the Kingdom like the man that found the hidden treasure or the merchant that found the pearl. If he did, he would’ve gladly given up his vast wealth for something that was worth so much more.
Do we look at our money and possessions as tools for this temporary life or do we cling to them like they’re the most important things in our lives? Did you take a close look at the picture at the top of this article? What we see is a tricycle with a wheel missing that is chained up so that no one will steal what the owner perceives to have great value. Once we grasp the value of the Kingdom, holding on to the material things of this world and overvaluing them is complete foolishness, just like chaining up a broken down tricycle. Mark 8:36 – “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”
Brad Graber, CFP® has been working with clients on personal financial planning and investment issues since 1996. He invests his time mentoring and educating individuals on ways to be better stewards of the resources God has entrusted to them.
In the spirit of “follow the money,” I decided to rank the expenditure log by category for January and February.
January: 1) Utilities including phone and internet, 1) Life/Health insurance premiums, 3) Groceries, 4)Misc including postage for tax filing, 5) Church contribution
February: 1) Groceries, 2) Utilities including phone and internet, 3) Church contribution, 4) Entertainment – entirely purchases driven by church activities such as books, refreshments for small group, activity for small group and refreshments for Sunday night, 5) Misc, including a donation to a non-religious cause
It is true that because we live in an economy, the very constant company of money and money issues can cause us to make it into an idol we serve. Nor does it hurt to “follow the money” in our budget to see what our priorities are. In fact, if we find the ranking does NOT match our internal priorities, we may be able to adjust our spending to align more closely with our priorities. Month over month, this can be encouraging.