The title sounds a little bit ridiculous, doesn’t it, with your family optional? Yet, so many of us unconsciously, or even consciously, live our lives with our priorities exactly in that order. Our justification is that we have to make money to pay the bills to take care of our family, and try to make enough to save a little for our future. I ask you this, what future is worth saving for without your family? Families consist of warm, breathing, growing humans, ones who love you dearly despite all of the spousal disagreements, teen attitudes, or toddler ornery stages. They don’t stop growing as you work, and they will each develop lifetime foundational thinking and beliefs with or without you, with you and from you or from someone else. Where did we get our priorities so confused in our society? Ok, the months seem longer and the paychecks seem smaller. Incomes are not keeping up with inflation and the economy for the most part is not helping. Companies… big, stable companies… are laying off people randomly by the thousands, so now you have job security to worry about. You either want to start saving, or want to start saving more. So, what are you supposed to do?! How do you balance surviving, career growth, and future stability with being an active part of your family?
First, get you priorities straight. Get your family back at the top of that list and understand that you have the job, the career, for your family; not the family for your job/career. Sure, we all have responsibilities. You certainly have the responsibility to work and provide for your family, if you are physically able. The Bible tells us in II Thessalonians 3:10,where Paul was speaking to the church in Thessalonica, For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” We know that God’s design was for us to stay busy doing His work, and part of His work is providing for our families. Yet an even more key point to this was the idea of providing. As adults and as parents, we are to provide for our family. The provisions that we are responsible for, however, are far deeper than just monetary provisions. That is where we miss the boat.
In our culture, success is measured by monetary gains. Even when discussions arise about domestic violence and abuse, or children getting into trouble with legal, drug, or alcohol related issues, we still hear comments that people are surprised because the father is a successful man, or the mother is a successful woman. The success that is being referred to, however, is always the business or monetary success. In order to be successful as a person, you need to rearrange your priority list to put family and others first.
When you focus first on career, money quickly becomes your deity. You begin to crave it, and want more and more. Greed sets in and begins to distort your perspective of life. Soon you discover that regardless of how much you have, you want more. It is a never ending cycle of greed, deception, perverted perspectives, and discontent that has destroyed many families and many individual lives. We’ve all heard people make the statement, “Money may not buy happiness, but it sure wouldn’t hurt!” We all would like to be wealthy to some degree. The problem is that even if you made every bit as much as you wanted to, if your priorities are still twisted, you would never be happy.
Happiness and contentment are not found in monetary wealth and success, but in realizing and understanding the value of people. When you can begin meeting the emotional needs of your family, you will quickly learn contentment and happiness. We all need money to survive in our culture, in our world, but there is a fine line between making a living and making a life. God put us here to make a life. Work is a part of that life, but only a small part. If you begin losing your focus, it is extremely easy to begin making money your primary focus. This is where we can begin to understand Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13, where both of these apostles write to us “No one can serve two masters. 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 both God and Money.”
Money is a tool. Like using a hammer, you hammer in the nail, but then put the tool down to finish the project as a whole. You don’t begin loving or focusing on the hammer. You need it to do a part of the whole, but it is not the whole in itself, so you put it down and refocus. That is how we should treat money as well. The responsibility as a whole is God and your family. You use the tool, money, to accomplish those things that you need, then put it down and refocus on the importance of the whole.
This brings us to another critical point… Needs vs. Wants. Understand your income abilities, and while always striving to do better and accomplish more, be content with what you currently have. Understand the vital difference between you and your family’s needs and wants. You need electricity, in most cases. You need food. You need shelter, your home. You need transportation. You want fine foods and to eat out, maybe at fine restaurants. You want a big, new, extravagant home, maybe as large or larger than your peers. You want a Mercedes or BMW or some expensive luxury vehicle. Ok, you say, these are obvious comparisons. You’re right, so let’s get a little closer to some things that maybe you haven’t thought about quite so much. You want cable or satellite television. You want a home phone AND a cell phone. You want brand name foods. You want internet. You want a second car. You want a newer car. You want to appear on the same status quo as your peers. You want these things, but none of them are true needs. Sure they have benefits. Sure they help in several ways. However, NONE OF THEM ARE NECESSARY! Not so long ago, in even my generation, we lived and grew up healthy without cable television. We grew up without cell phones. We grew up without internet.
The hard truth is that we grew up without many of the distractions that are available to us and our children now. Cell phones are great, and definitely have made communicating much easier. They have also created non-personal communication paths for our children that are very destructive. Cable and satellite television are wonderful. Yet, they too have created a destructive path for our children if not very closely monitored, as they provide desensitization of violence, sex, demoralizing women, glorifying gore, and making drug involvement an accepted behavior. The internet is an incredible tool, yet has proven to also be the most abused, degrading, demoralizing, and evil distractions that we have available, not only to us as adults, but to our children who are exposed to worlds of filth and predators that invade our homes through electronic means. Many of the tools we have can be used properly as tools, but if not excruciatingly monitored, they can distract us and desensitize us and our children from the real responsibilities and joys that we have right in front of us.
So, back to the title of this article, COMMITMENTS – Make Money – Pay-Bills – Save Money – Love Family (optional). Is it really such a ridiculous thought? We do this every day, seldom realizing that we are putting our families as an optional status. Turn your commitments around. Place your family first. By doing so, you are putting God at the top of your list as well, because He wants you to take care of your family, meeting ALL of their needs, not just the monetary wants. Understand who you are really working for. You are neither working for yourself, nor for whoever employs you. You are working for your family. God has provided you what He knows you need right now. He has also provided you the intelligence and the opportunities to do better, if that is what you believe you should do for Him and your family. If you don’t like where you are right now, then stop complaining and do something about it! Just make sure that you are doing whatever you do for the right reasons. Not just for money. Not just for status.
You have made commitments in your life. Meet them. Your first and foremost commitment is to God and to your family. Put them first and make them the focus of your success. Lead them by being the greatest servant that you can possibly be. This doesn’t mean giving in to all of their wants! It means saying NO sometimes, actually quite often sometimes. It means teaching them the value of one another, and teaching them the differences between needs and wants. It means loving them unconditionally, even when that means you have to make very conscious efforts to love them despite their mistakes and stages of behavioral growth. Remember, you didn’t get to your level of maturity by age 9 or 15 or 20 either. You grew because someone cared enough to teach you, or because you were forced to learn on your own. You now have the opportunity to touch and change someone’s life, whether you want that responsibility or not. You do touch others, and you will change lives; it’s your choice on what paths you lead other down.
Learn to commit to the love you have within you. Learn to re-commit to the love that you have already committed. Love is a decision, so decide to commit to that love, no matter what. Don’t give in to society’s theory of “disposable” love, one that is only an emotional and physical response. You don’t fall in and out of love. You fall in and out of lust and mud puddles. Love at a deeper level, one worth finding and holding on to, is a mentally conscious decision to love someone, no matter the faults, no matter the flaws, no matter the circumstance. When you decide to love someone unconditionally, you will receive love back like you have never realized before. It is at that moment that your focus becomes clear, and at that moment that your priorities become crystal clear, and at that moment that you realize your purpose upon this earth.