The Purpose of Money
- Thursday, February 02, 2012
Early in my journey of learning about money, I noticed a very odd disconnect.
On the one hand, it was obvious that there’s a ton of personal finance advice readily available. Search on any financial question and within seconds you can find answers.
And yet, lots of people struggle with money.
Why is that? With so much guidance so close at hand, why is money so hard for so many people to figure out?
I believe it’s because too many people aren’t clear about the purpose of their lives. They’re living reactive lives, bouncing from one popular message about what matters to another.
The only way to understand the purpose of money is to understand the purpose of life. And the only way to achieve truly meaningful success is to orient our use of money around our life purpose.
In this post, we’re going to look at the first of the 11 core principles that form the foundation of my work: Know Who You Are.
Do You Know Who You Are?
The English writer Samuel Johnson once said, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.”
Oh we need instruction, but all the instruction in the world won’t do us any good if we’re not clear about who we are and what really matters.
Our culture would have us believe we’re consumers. It sounds harmless enough, right? But have you ever looked up the definition? To consume means to use up, devour, spend wastefully. How’s that working out for us?
The word first came into popular use during the Industrial Revolution, the period roughly between 1880 and 1920 that set the wheels in motion for today’s consumerculture.
Our society shifted from agriculture to industry. People went from self-sufficient to income dependent, from making things to buying things. With so many goods spilling off assembly lines, businesses needed people to use stuff up. To paraphrase Aldous Huxley from “Brave New World,” “ending (throwing stuff away)” needed to replace the habit of “mending.”
To entice us to buy, buy, buy, advertising began linking products to our identity and happiness. Products became branded, and so did we. No longer were we referred to as citizens or workers. We became consumers.
From that point forward, huge sums of money have been spent in an effort to keep us from remembering who we were made to be.
What’s In a Name?
Consumer is more than a word; it’s a worldview. If I’m a consumer, I’m the most important person in the world. Life is all about me – my pleasure, my comfort, my happiness.
If I’m a consumer, I’m convinced that happiness is found in money and stuff.
And if I’m a consumer, life is about competition. I notice what others around me have and I’m happiest when I have more.
People who study happiness say this is the path that leads in the exact opposite direction of where we’d all like to go. It’s like trying to get to New York from Chicago and getting on a westbound highway.
They say happiness is found in living for something bigger than ourselves, loving people instead of stuff, and living a life of contribution instead of competition.
Remembering Who We Are
The good news is that we were not designed to be consumers. The Bible doesn’t say that on the sixth day God made consumers who would use up and waste all that He made on the previous five days. It says He made man and woman in His image.
Financially, the Bible describes us as stewards, or managers.
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