I recently spoke with a friend who received a job offer in her field paying a higher salary. The new job is in a city an hour from where she lives. Rather than moving, she planned to commute. She shared the good news with family and some of her church members. Oddly though, they weren’t as happy about it as she was.
Some of the comments objected to the hour commute and standard 9-5 work schedule. Apparently, these factors indicated the job wasn’t part of “God’s plan” and “He had something better.” I was confused on why such minor details somehow concluded the job wasn’t meant for her. Commuting and working 9-5 is normal for most jobs. Why then, would those be considered negative aspects?
This reminded me of the themes surrounding finances I saw as a kid growing up in church. Although I heard preachers give heartfelt sermons about spiritual, emotional, and financial increases, the latter is what most seemed to lack. Nearly everyone I knew came to church for their fulfillment on Sunday. When service ended, they went back to unfulfilling jobs Monday through Friday. Often, these were jobs that barely paid the bills, according to testimonies given every week.
As I got older, I noticed the passive approach that some religious folks had about finances. Whenever someone fell behind on rent or experienced any other financial mishap, they were simply told to pray, or just have faith that everything would work out.
Now that I’m an adult who has had many financial ups and downs, I find this thinking dangerous. It’s true that a number of life’s circumstances are out of our control. Still, it seems foolish to encourage others to relinquish all efforts to a higher power without taking any action of their own.
Further, it martyrizes “the struggle” and allows one to feel comfortable—maybe even satisfied—with financial instability. In some church communities I’ve joined in the past, the more impoverished you are, the more you’re considered to be a true believer. Anyone who appears to be financially well off is accused of idolizing money, and fellow church members eagerly wait for the day that person faces a tragedy that can’t be fixed with money.
It’s sad to witness, because many people’s religious beliefs make up a significant part of who they are. We shouldn’t feel forced to make a choice between our beliefs and having a better life.
My belief is that religion and financial success don’t have to be either/or options. Leaving a job that no longer benefits you, or taking one further from home, doesn’t mean you have less faith. Desiring to be debt free or make six figures isn’t a sign that you idolize money. Money is a part of life, and until we leave this earth, it’s something we all need to survive. Why not get what we need in this life, rather than wait until we move on to the spiritual realm?
This is why I was delighted to see that Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche will be teaching a Master Class at TD Jakes’ “Woman Thou Art Loosed” conference. It’s refreshing for a personal finance educator to have such a large platform in the religious community. Hopefully this sends the message that it’s crucial to make progress both in your spiritual and financial journey.
Finally, I want to be clear that I’m not bashing anyone’s religion. I only think it does more harm than good to use religion as a manipulation tactic to keep people financially stagnant. We’re all human, which means we’re guaranteed to make mistakes, financial or otherwise.
For those who believe God is all powerful, there should be no question that His plan will fall into place in due time. Until then, it’s best to focus on our own paths, and refrain from judging the paths of others.
**Note: I use “God” throughout this post based on the conversation with my friend. The concepts mentioned can apply to any higher power you identify with.
Featured Image: Samantha Sophia via Unsplash