I read an online magazine post by a stay-at-home mom who found that paying for help with her children (two of which were infant twins) actually made her a better mother. She explained that her pride--her desire to be everything and do it all--almost kept her from asking for help. I appreciated her honesty and her message.
But the comments upset me. It seemed there were two main negative veins of comments. The first completely misconstrued her message (which is sadly all too common among Internet readers); the second went something like this,
I wish I had the money to get help with my children; you're just lucky you can afford help!
Similarly, my mother-in-law, who previously only shopped at thrift stores, recently decided to buy some clothes from a higher-end store that fit her (she's lost a lot of weight recently). She posted a picture of her bag, commenting that she never knew there were stores that wrapped your clothes in tissue paper. I was so happy for her and proud of her. But one comment read, "I hope you used coupons!!!"
I understand the importance of being mindful with our money. I understand that it is good (and for many of us at many times necessary) to find the best deals and use coupons. But I am tired of the "always saving money all the time" mantra. Just a few generations ago, how much you made and how you spent it was taboo. While money talk shouldn't be taboo, it has reached a point where no one tells a story anymore (often myself included) without adding, "It was on sale" or "I used a gift card" or " We got a great deal" out of fear for what others will think or say. And they often will say something!
I don't often jump on the "Don't judge" train, but in this case, I think we need to stop making everything about money and judging how others spend it. Our circumstances are so unique. The woman in the article doesn't mention how much her husband makes or what other sacrifices (if any) she has to make to pay for help. But it doesn't matter. It is their money, and how they choose to spend it and whether they find the best deals or use coupons is completely up to them.
So I've been trying something new. When I hear about someone else's good fortune, instead of calculating in my mind, I try to rejoice. I'm tired of being consumed by the thought of money and cost. Money is value neutral, and we've imbued saving money and getting deals with far more virtue than is right.
I want to be able to hear my friend's story without thinking, "How did she afford to do that?" I want to be able to buy a pair of jeans if I need them without being paralyzed because I can't find a coupon. I want to be content with our old couch even if my friend buys two beautiful new ones.
How we spend our time and money is a clear reflection of our hearts, but so is what we talk about. And from the amount of words I spend talking about money, I clearly value it too much. In addition, I don't know enough about someone else's time and money to judge their heart, and ultimately, I have no business judging another person's heart.
I'm reminded of what Jesus says when Peter, after hearing about his own martyrdom asks, "Lord, what about [John]?" That question is so often mine. "What about her? Why are things working out that way for them and not us? Should they really be dating? Why does she have something I don't have? What are your plans, Lord?!"
And Jesus' answer is the one I am trying to remember,
"If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!" (John 21:21-22, emphasis mine).
There is no inherent virtue in saving money or using a coupon, but "...godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Tim. 6:6). Instead of being known for my great deals and savings account, let's be known for our contentment.