Money Makes My Head Spin Around

[I wrote this for Ellen Painter Dollar’s blog last June, part of a series she ran on faith and money.]


Cabaret has that wonderfully avaricious song, Money, Money:

Money makes the world go around
The world go around
The world go around
Money makes the world go around
It makes the world go ’round.
A mark, a yen, a buck, or a pound
A buck or a pound
A buck or a pound
Is all that makes the world go around,
That clinking clanking sound
Can make the world go ’round.

The song gets worse, but it’s also quite accurate for those living out what Jesus warned against in Matthew 6:24 – No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Paul’s assessment in 1 Timothy 6:9-10 fits too – Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”

I don’t really have an answer for money problems. I’m not a financial expert or budgeting wiz. I’ve read about those things, but I’ve never been able to do them. Instead, I try to keep it simple and live within my means. Since I’m married, it’s really two of us living within our means. I’m glad my wife is with me on this because she’s more careful about money than I am, and while we don’t have a strict budget she is able to keep an idea of how much we’ve got to spend at any given time. Sometimes I think she’s too careful, but she probably thinks I’m too frivolous.

That’s how she characterizes things sometimes when we talk about spending money. “I just don’t want us to be frivolous,” she’ll say. That doesn’t mean we never spend money on fun stuff. We take a vacation occasionally, eat out, see a show once in a while, but neither of us are big spenders by nature. And since we have two kids to put through college (one just graduated, woo-hoo!), it’s hard to justify big expensive purchases or payments anyway. In fact that’s a nice excuse not to spend a ton, and not thinking about spending a ton keeps my head from spinning around out of control

So here’s how we do it. We talk about where the money goes. I don’t decide on my own, she doesn’t decide on her own. Sometimes, the two of us together don’t reach a decision either; of course, they say not deciding is a type of decision too. But when we do choose to shell out a biggish wad of cash, it’s because we’ve talked it through.

Sometimes our conversations are about vacations. Do we spend the money to go to family camp, rent a house on the coast with some friends, or just decide to stay home? Others have been about cars. Should we buy a car now or wait a while? If so, which car? (We haven’t bought new in years, by the way.) I know some families operate on the practice that the husband comes home with a car and that’s how the decision gets made. I’d rather walk than make a decision like that without my wife.

This type of conversation extends to who we give to as well. We get a lot of letters from people going on the mission field (short term and long), plus there’s church and other ministries and endless opportunities to give (remember what Jesus said about always having the poor among us?). It’s kind of enjoyable to talk about who to give to and how much for each. But again, neither of us has ever unilaterally chosen to give charitably. One of us might have a suggestion that prevails, but it is still talked about first.

At work, one thing I’ve noticed in my courtroom is that families that don’t talk about money are more likely to end up in a legal dispute than those who do. It might be in a marriage dissolution, which can include child support issues or dividing up the family’s property. It might be in a will contest or trust proceeding where one part of the family doesn’t trust what the other is doing with the money. It might be in a good old fashioned theft case, where one person mistakenly thought they could trust another member of the family with an ATM card and password.

Speaking of work, a retired judge told me long ago, “I’ve found that more communication is almost always better than less.” I’ve taken that observation to heart, and I can tell you that it works in my marriage whether we’re talking about money or anything else. What also helps is to remember that it’s not money that makes the world go around, but God:

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17.)

Creating all things and holding them together, including us and all we are and all we have. Now that’s something worth talking about.


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12 Responses to Money Makes My Head Spin Around

  1. Aimee Byrd says:

    Thanks for pointing us to our true provider, Tim.
    And I love this line: “I’d rather walk than make a decision like that without my wife.” I know that we have some differences in the complementation/egalitarian divide, but I appreciate all the words you have written about appreciating and valuing women’s contribution. Couldn’t agree more.

  2. Mary Anne says:

    I like Tevye’s approach in Fiddler on the Roof. When he’s told that “money is the world’s curse,” he shouts, “Then may God smite me with it! And may I never recover!” X-D

    When I indulge in “If I won the lottery” fantasies, of course I daydream about stuff like being able to travel whenever I’d like or buying a nice house outright. Mmmm, a fine English country house where I could throw parties for the Pemberley folks! But I also think about how I could use money to help people—at least, any kind of help that money can give. I once worked in a facility for people who were expecting an organ transplant or recovering from one. Obviously money wouldn’t relieve all their woes, but it would have been nice to be able to say, “Expenses? Don’t worry about a thing.” Of course, if God ever sees fit to gift (smite?) me with a quidillion dollars, I hope I can remember these fine resolutions and daydreams . . . 😉

    • Tim says:

      A quidillion? You could buy a few countries with that, MA! But as you say, it’s keeping the resolutions in mind that would be tough. Good intentions, road to hell, and all that.


      P.S. Don’t just buy any old country house. Buy the estate of Pemberley itself. As long as you have a quidillioon dollars (or pounds, your choice) then you can create it from scratch!

  3. Jeannie says:

    Thanks for these helpful insights — I especially like how you link the money issue with communication between spouses.

  4. Tuija says:

    Thanks for this!
    This reminds me of a song I really like: Keith and Kristyn Getty’s “Simple Living” – if you have not heard it, I heartily recommend listening 🙂
    I love the line about giving (a reference to the poor window’s offering):
    “Not what you give but what you keep
    is what the King is counting.”
    And the rest of the lyrics, too – I pray them along with the song every time I listen.

  5. Pingback: At the Intersection of Doubt and Indecision | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

  6. Pingback: Decision-Making in a Marriage Full of Forks in the Road | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

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