Why Do I Stress About Money?
My wife and I recently found ourselves outgrowing our car. Getting our child, stuff, us, and groceries in one car often felt like a game of Tetris. As we began considering a new vehicle, however, I felt the emotions begin to rise. I would download a used car app, look at prices, then delete it again.
I knew that we needed to buy a different car. At the same time, cars cost a lot of money. I didn’t want to take on debt or deplete our savings. So, what did I do? Nothing. The stress paralyzed me for quite a while.
I’ve found that this isn’t an isolated phenomenon. Money does weird stuff to our hearts. It causes problems in our marriages, friendships, workplaces, and parenting. Divorces, suicides, abuse, and other types of evils are often connected to financial stress. The question is: why does money stress us out? What is it about dollar signs that has us anxious and angry?
The Bible makes clear that God knows the human heart even more than we do. In fact, the Bible speaks specifically about money in many passages. Two primary areas are in the book of Proverbs and in Jesus’s teachings. In both, we see how money affects our lives and how we can live by faith with our money.
As I’ve studied the Word, I’ve seen a few key reasons that money can stress us out:
1. Self-Sufficiency Is Cancerous
Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor” and then said, “Woe to you who are the rich” (Luke 6:21,24). He also says that is hard for a rich man to enter heaven (Matt. 19:23). Then, in Proverbs 11:28 we ready that, “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.”
So, what can we learn from these passages?
Our approach to our finances is of importance because money can be one of the primary fuels of self-sufficiency if we let it. How? One of the reasons that money can stress us out is because it can become a crutch on which we depend, so much so that we’ll do anything to make sure it isn’t affected.
Let me be clear, though: money is vital for survival in our current economic system. Our finances are an area of stewardship given by God. That means we should follow a plan, create a budget, and be diligent about how our money is used. Money is also a gift for us to enjoy.
At the same time, we can’t let it foster self-sufficiency. Personally, my heart can grow weary as I type in numbers into my budget each month. I worry over questions like, “What if this happens?” or “What about that project?”
Money is never meant to have this much control of our hearts. A cushioned bank account might appear to be the fix to all our problems, but it can squelch our faith.
As I’ve considered this, I’ve begun to regularly ask myself a few helpful questions:
1. What unhealthy security walls have I created with money that have hindered my faith?
2. When I have issues in my life, am I prone to fix it with resources or go to the Lord in prayer by faith?
3. Does giving hurt? When I give to the church and the community, do I flinch a little?
2. Debt Is Daunting
If you were to survey the cause of money-related stress in people’s lives, one of the primary causes would be debt. Credit card debt, school loans, car loans, and mortgages. In fact, I was just talking to a young lady in our church who recently paid off her student loans, and she was describing the moment she made that final payment as “unreal.”
She’s not alone. An estimated 42 percent of millennials have some type of school debt. And if it’s not student debt, it’s another form of debt. In 2019, the cumulative amount of American credit card debt surpassed one trillion dollars.
Debt impacts many of us, and it is painful. It’s like a cloud looming over you that you try to blow away with your breath, only to have it descend again. As Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” No, we aren’t physically slaves to our lender as was historically the case. But debt feels slave-like, nonetheless. It can also cause us to further stress about money.
If you don’t think this is true, consider: (1) how you would feel if you had no debt and, (2) how you would feel if you carried a debt load of one million dollars.
I’m guessing your sentiments would be polar opposites, and this proves the point. Debt is painful. I know because I have experienced debt. I’ve seen how harmful it is for our spiritual and emotional health, how it messes with our decision, our planning for the future, our relationships, and our life with God. We can easily stress about money as we feel the weight of the debt.
I encourage you to reflect on the following questions:
1. Has financial debt affected my life with God?
2. Has debt affected my emotional life?
3. Has debt affected how I do life with others?
Poverty Is Painful
No one wants to be poor. And guess what? While some people feel led to give themselves to a life of poverty, nowhere in the Bible does God call us all to live in poverty.
Poverty is a product of the fall. And whether you’ve experienced it or not, it has impacted the way you live your life. Consider how you were raised. Remember how you studied through school and learned how to work hard in life? Did you passively and slothfully walk toward wealth? For most of us, the answer is “no.” For most of our lives, we’ve been driven by a desire to avoid a life of poverty. For some of us, that fear has been more prevalent—you’ve gone without a meal and you’ve had the power shut off. For others, it’s more subconscious. But the fear is there all the same.
What do we do? How do we prevent poverty from ruining our spiritual life, our relationships, and our generosity? I encourage you to ask yourself the following questions:
1. What has motivated me to work towards wealth?
2. How have I insulated yourself in fear of poverty?
3. Am I able to enjoy gifts or extra money without fear of not saving it?
Discontentment Is a Thief
One of the chief reasons that money causes stress is because our eyes gravitate toward what we don’t have. We fixate on that “next thing,” not realizing that it’s a moving goal post and we’re continually chasing after it.
It isn’t wrong to have a new iPhone or a high-quality BBQ Smoker (I know nothing about this…). Rather, it’s the constant chasing of these things that brings misery. It brings misery because it (1) doesn’t allow us to enjoy the beautiful gifts God has already given us, and (2) causes us to look for satisfaction in worldly things. If we aren’t careful, we can find ourselves in a never-ending hole of discontentment, which leads to never-ending stress over money.
As you think about your own discontentment, reflect on these questions:
1. Am I constantly looking through Amazon for that new thing?
2. Do I find yourself always complaining about what I have?
3. When I get tax returns, bonuses, or money, is my impulse to buy another new thing?
My wife and I did end up buying that car. It hurt. And it does cause me to still wonder: why does money stress me out? Yet, here is what I do know: God’s grace is sufficient for all our decisions—wise ones and mistakes. Yes, our money matters. Yes, we are called to be good stewards. But we also have a God who takes care of us in all things.
To the self-sufficient: trust in the sovereignty of God. To the debtor: there will no debt in heaven. To the poor: yours is the Kingdom of Heaven. To the discontent: receive peace from the Spirit.
Jesus knew that we would make both wise and foolish choices with our money. So, let us rid ourselves of fear and run toward freedom in Christ. Let’s wisely use our money as a gift of God for the glory of God.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
The beauty of the gospel story is that we are not a bride with a father who has withheld a bridegroom to take care of us. He provided one. Jesus was given to us so that we know we will be taken care of. With his broken body and his blood, he met us at the alter vowing with his life to take care of us and love us forever. That’s the story of gospel. That’s your story.
In a world full of self-love and apathy, we don’t need less self-clarity, we need more. If you read this and see no need for self-clarity or self-awareness, then I might encourage you that you are the very person who needs this. I’d urge you to be curious about how you are being experienced by others, to find honest people to tell you how you are doing in loving others, and find tools that might help you on that journey.
It’s alarming how easy it is to forget what we were saved from and that it was not because of our own effort, but only by the grace of God. So subtly can we start to believe that our spiritual maturity simply happened or that we’ve gotten to where we are merely by our effort.
I believe there is an underlying narrative surrounding the value of women that threatens the influencing and flourishing of women in the local church. Beginning to grasp that reality was a painful and confusing process for me. Sometimes this narrative shows up in the most heartbreaking of ways in the local church—like in stories of the devaluing and abuse of women in the church. Sometimes the narrative is less extremely represented through the absence of women in ministry. And sometimes, like in my case, I didn’t think this narrative applied to me at all because of the good ministry situation I was in.