Three Simple Steps to Change the Way You Think About Money

I heard Bro. Bro. Alvin Barcelona speak about the theology of money four years ago. The lessons I learned made a huge impact on my life. 

But like many lessons I learned before, the feelings and the impact slowly faded away until I totally forgot the lessons I learned.

I had two reasons why the impact and the feelings faded away: First, I was still young and not-as-mature when I first heard about the theology of money. (I know I’m still far from being mature.) Second, some of the lessons were not personal to me. 

When you learn lessons first hand, they become closer to your heart.

The way I thought about money lie in two ends of the spectrum: I was either obsessed with making money or I was rejecting money because I felt uncomfortable with it. I was never in between. Or maybe there’s really no in-between.

I was obsessed with making it big in my career, but subconsciously, I believed money was evil. I could not reconcile making money with my work, my mission, and my spirituality.

I would always dream of making millions, but whenever I priced my products, projects, and services, I would price them at the low-end. Or should I say, at the lowest end. I never bargained (or never learned to bargain) with clients and employers even when I thought I could do better.

Last week, during my scripture time, I felt like I finally solved my problem in my psychology when it comes to making money. I finally reconciled making money and doing my best work, fulfilling my mission, and staying true to my spirituality. Let me share with you my highly personal three-step process to changing the way I think about money:

Step 1: Know what you really want to do

“Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains.” — 1 Timothy 6:9-10

In seminars about making money and financial literacy and, sometimes, even in theology of money classes, what mentors teach is that it’s okay to make as much money as you can as long as your purpose is to give it to God, to love others, or to give the money away to those who need it. It works for most people. But, it just doesn’t work for me.

Because my purpose remained the same—to make money—I felt that I was simply justifying my desire to make money. 

That was it! Aside from the very purpose of wealth, what I needed to change was my desire.

St. Paul wrote to Timothy about the “love of money” and the “desire of it.” He started with the desire and not the purpose of money. No matter how noble your purpose of making money is, as long as you still desire it, you will always be “falling into temptation and into a trap.”

My desire of money was the reason why I couldn’t reconcile making money with my work, my mission, and my spirituality. I had to eliminate, not just temper, my desire of money. But, to do this, I had to desire and pursue something else. It’s a good thing St. Paul wrote about this as well:

“But you, man of God, avoid all this. Instead, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses.” — 1 Timothy 6:11-12

Instead of desiring to make money, what I desire now is what I deeply want to do—my work, my mission, and growing in love of God. Instead of pursuing money, pursue what you really want to do.

St. Paul listed down the things you should pursue instead: righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, gentleness, competing well for the faith, and eternal life. 

Can I add to St. Paul’s list? Pursue God, excellence at work, being true to yourself, and living for others.

You may be overwhelmed by the list. You can just pick one (at a time) and stick with it. For me, right now, I want to pursue excellence at what I’m doing.

Step 2: Learn to accept payment for your work

This step seems to be so simple. It is, yet it’s not.

You have done your part by sowing. But, that’s just the first part. You also have to harvest what you sow.

Unfortunately, many of us, myself included, are not comfortable receiving payment for our work. Subconsciously, we reject payment.

Imagine you are in a job interview and the HR manager asks for your rate. Or maybe you are in a client meeting and the client asks how much your services cost. How much will you price your services? Are you comfortable putting a price on your services?

“Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment.” — Luke 10:7

I may be taking this scripture verse out of context. But, you need to accept what is offered to you. You need to learn how to accept payment for your work. Otherwise, how will you be able to sustain yourself while you’re pursuing your purpose and your mission?

Take care of the goose that lays the golden eggs. That golden goose is you.

Here’s what I believe: If you pursue something with excellence, the money will follow. What more if you pursue God and His righteousness?

Be ready and open to accept payment. But, the purpose remains. Do things not because of the payment, but because of your purpose.

This way, you will also learn to be content with how much you are getting paid. Be comfortable when you receive a huge amount. Be content when you receive a small amount. But, whatever amount you receive, accept it. And enjoy it.

”Those to whom God gives riches and property, and grants power to partake of them, so that they receive their lot and find joy in the fruits of their toil: This is a gift from God.” — Ecclesiastes 5:18

Enjoy your blessings. Accept them. Do not reject them. You also received your blessings, your payment, because God trusts you with them.

Step 3: Give away what you received (and accepted)

“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” — Luke 12:48

Yes. When you receive (and accept) payment for your work, for your purpose, even without pursuing it, that means God trusts you with it.

But, be ready. Because God will require more from you as He entrusted you with more.

Personally, I realized that when I finally have the money, this is the only time I should be thinking about what to do with money. This way, thinking about what to do with money, no matter how noble it is, will not distract me from my purpose and my mission.

I don’t know about you, but whenever money is involved, I easily get distracted.

This is (or should be) the only time when the theology of money kicks in for me—the only time I think about the greater and holy purpose of money. Otherwise, if I think about this too soon, I may simply justify my desire of money with the theology of money. I would know. I had been doing it for years.

It’s also like not counting my chickens before they hatch. No matter how noble the purpose of my chickens is.

What should be the purpose of wealth?

“Tell the rich in the present age not to be proud and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth but rather on God, who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, ready to share, thus accumulating as treasure a good foundation for the future, so as to win the life that is true life.” — 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Before giving us the purpose of weatlh, St. Paul started with a reminder: Rely not on something fleeting as wealth, but on God alone. Wealth can be a blessing and a curse. It depends on how you see and use it.

Moving on to the purpose of wealth, St. Paul gaves us five purposes:

Do good. When you have wealth, you’ll have the potential to do even better and reach more people with your purpose.

Be rich in good works. When you have wealth, you’ll be able to do even more good works—feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, providing shelter to the homeless, and even building God’s physical church.

Be generous and ready to share. When you have wealth, you’ll have more to give.

Build a foundation for the future. Not ruin it like what our generation and the previous generation are doing. We’re leaving nothing for tomorrow, instead of investing for tomorrow. With the help of wealth, we can create a better tomorrow.

Win the life that is true life. That is, love. You only truly live when you love. Wealth can magnify your love through service. Borrowing from Brother Bo Sanchez, “The ultimate purpose of wealth is to love.”

In all these five purposes, wealth is given away and your purpose is magnified—in its reach, in its potential, and even in its very heart.

Wealth is a magnifier. It does not change who you are or what you’re working for. It doesn’t change what your purpose is. It only magnifies them.

Then, repeat. Start with your purpose. Accept your blessings. Share your blessings. And then, repeat again. But, always start with your purpose. The purpose should always come first.

When you think about it in this way, you will definitely accept what’s being paid to you. Because you know that wealth has its own holy purpose.

How about you?

These steps are what helped me solve my problem with my money psychology. It may or may not work for you. After all, you remember lessons better when they are more personal. What are the lessons you learned personally that improved your own psychology of money? Feel free to share them in the comments below. I’d love to learn from you.

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