No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Do you like math? I’m not the biggest fan. I specifically chose a college major where I wouldn’t have to do any. Since having kids though, I’ve been struggling with a math problem: How to save $600,000 in 18 years on a $60,000 salary?
Stephanie and I have a financial goal of saving $598,295 in order to pay for our three children’s projected college educations. Sadie’s projected cost is $180,319, Clark’s is $198,800, and Ryan’s is $219,177. To save this amount of money would require saving $1,713.32 a month, or roughly 34% of my salary, over the next 18 years (though it’s actually a little more than that because Sadie would start college in 13 years).
I believe money is a taboo topic, especially when it comes to details. I don’t know how much anybody else makes or their net worth or what their budget (or if we're being honest, lack of budget) looks like. I don’t know how much people spend, save or give. And I’m sure you don’t know my financial details (at least before today). I’m only comfortable telling you my salary because it is publicly displayed as part of the church budget. I find that there is a lot of judgment, shame, pride, greed, fear and worry when it comes to money, especially in knowing the details. By telling you I make $60,000, I fear that you will judge my value and worth. If you make more than me, that may lead to pride. If you make less, it may lead to shame. And vice versa—if I find I make more than you, I’ll feel prideful. If I make less, I’ll feel ashamed. When it comes to college savings, if I have more than where I need to be at, I find myself prideful and trusting in myself. If I have less than where I need to be at, I find myself fearful and greedy.
Money is something that God is constantly using to refine my character. It’s an area where I’m continually learning to trust God. It’s an area where I always have to ask myself, “What am I really seeking in life?” Through my eyes, the college savings math doesn’t work. But I find God asking me, “Who is it that would make the math work?” and sometimes, more importantly, “Should the math even work?” or “Michael, why do you want the math to work?”
Side note: I’m really prideful and self-dependent. A big part of why I want to save this amount of money is because it’s what my parents did for me. To do this is to show that I’m just as capable as they are as a parent.
I find that I’m often too consumed with money matters. Money is a tool given by God. He calls us to be good stewards of it. We cannot serve both God and money. Stressing about my math problem leads my heart to serve money rather than God, and that is a dangerous place to be. Yet dwelling upon the math problem remains. I believe being a good parent does require putting some thought into it. But it should not be the reason for my existence. Putting my kids through college is secondary to training them up in the Lord and them having a personal relationship with Christ.
If you find money to be a taboo subject, yet one that causes a variety of unhealthy emotions within you as it does me, I encourage you to share about it with someone, especially God. Through this honest dialogue, I trust God will search and examine us and we will learn to serve him with all our hearts.
So to break this taboo, let me be the first to start. Do you want to know how much we have saved up for Sadie’s college education?
Disclosure: I’ve gone back and forth on whether to share this number with you. The fear in me thinks that you’ll judge me with this newfound information. Ultimately, I’ve decided to share it because if I don’t, the unspoken number has power over me and I am not being my most authentic self with you. Part of sharing our stories is being everything God has made us to be. I’m entrusting this information to you because it’s part of my story and my struggle.
Right now, Sadie’s college education fund is about $60,000 ($61,753 to be exact—the market went down yesterday), which is about three to four years ahead of the pace we need to be at. Now, I’d love to say that all of this is due to Stephanie's and my diligence, but that’s not true. There’s been a lot of generous family and friends who have helped out, along with a bull market. I’m prideful and scared about this number at the same time—prideful because I’m proving that I can do this on a pastor’s salary. Scared because I know it could be wiped out at any moment. Part of me thinks that now that I’ve shared this number with you, God will humble me by taking it away (pastors have wrong theology and doubts too).
When money controls you, it’s easy to have these emotions. God has been slowly revealing my heart and releasing me from the false god and false security of money. It is God and God alone who is worthy of all worship and praise. And He is the God of math. No one can serve two gods.
If you share a similar story, I’d love to hear your story as you have listened to mine. We'd also love to see you in our Storytellers class this spring. For more information, check out this blog post.