I Learned the Hard Way: Good Stewardship is More than Saving

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Wealth seems to be a sensitive topic. Some people don’t mind parading around the wealth they’ve created.

I would argue that the main problem with wealth in America is that people parade around a perception of wealth that they do not have.  We live in a society that wants to keep up with the Joneses. At the same time, it’s a taboo topic.  One that’s hard to address.

People pursue wealth for various reasons but few desire to talk about their philosophy of wealth.  Some to hoard and become wealthy. Some to spoil themselves with the conveniences of the world.  Still others seek to use it for greater good.  They long to give it away – perhaps for recognition; perhaps as a authentic gift.

I have been blessed.  Blessed with success that has afforded financial resources, that, as a one-income family, I never dreamed we would have.  Growing up in a middle class family, one that struggled from time to time when I was young, I have always had a conservative bent.  My tendency is to save; to some extent you could say that I was afraid of wealth when I began my career.

There is one big lesson that I’ve had to learn over the years.  That lesson is how to be a good steward of my financial resources in a way that provides for my family based upon the unique needs of our situation in life. And stewardship is about more than just saving.

You see, early on in my career, I was what you might consider frugal. I was timid to take more than a single vacation or spend on the “souped up” stroller my wife wanted for the kids.  I was very careful not to spend on things that I saw as extravagant.

As I became more and more “successful”, I had to learn to use the resources for the benefit of my family.  Some fathers are given jobs where they can afford to spend all but 8 hours a day with their wife and children.  I have not.  I have been given talents that have pulled me into a demanding career.  I don’t get a ton of quantity time, but I can afford quality time. I learned several years ago that one of the ways I can bless my family and be a good steward of my financial resources is to not get caught up in “spending too much”.

Here are a few examples.

I’ve learned that a few weekend trips sprinkled throughout the year can be a fabulous blessing to my wife and kids. We are able to spend dedicated time together that we otherwise we wouldn’t be able to if we were to stay at home in the midst of the business of life.

One of my pet peeves early on in our marriage was eating out.  I have had to learn that because I’m not always around to help out, it can be very taxing on Teresa to not only run the kids around but make a home cooked meal every night.  I’ve learned to enjoy eating out as a family a lot more often than I was originally comfortable with in order to give my wife the break she deserves.

I recently built a batting cage in my backyard.  A lot of people might see that as “over the top”, and frankly, I was afraid of that perception when I first built it.  But you know what? I have already had more than enough quality time with my kids in that cage to make it worth it.  Not just my baseball lover, but several of my kids love to go back and have me pitch to them.  We genuinely enjoy those moments together and it builds our relationship.

These are all things that I would have considered “being spoiled” and “over the top” ten years ago .  The reality is that, for me, they are not.  I have been blessed with resources that allow me to bless my family with something different.

I am confident that so long as I remain generous in my giving to others, do not become addicted to the worldly things I can afford and that my “investments” remain about accomplishing my mission as a husband and father as opposed to status or sensuality, then I am using the resources I’ve been blessed with appropriately.  I have gone from fighting with my wife about things that don’t matter because I wanted the safety of a large nest egg (holy sinner!) to learning to leverage my resources not only for providing safety and being generous with others, but also for being generous with my own family.

Some people hoard, some people spoil.  Some people give away.  Very few people are stewards of their wealth and really leverage their resources for their entire integrated life.

What unique ways are you using the resources you’ve been given?  Do you struggle to find the right balance of using the resources you’ve been given and not being extravagant?  Do you spend more time worrying about perception or studding your finances?

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Mark Kalpakgian says:

    While some have financial wealth all have talents, “wealth” to share. One of the biggest challenges is to change the frame of reference around wealth. I’ve always thought how nice it would be to be a philanthropist. While I don’t have the financial means to be one per see, if I reframe the philanthropy I am forced to realize that I have a host of other talents to share and distribute.

    If we change the lever and redefine wealth, we are forced to look inside and ask ourselves the question: How can I contribute? For some its money, others knowledge, others time, others their presence.

    As the Gospel put it, It is more blessed to give than to receive! What a timely message during this Advent season.

    Thanks for sharing David!

    1. David DeWolf says:

      Thanks for these thoughts, Mark. I have two differing thoughts on this.

      First, I do agree. We all have been giving blessings – and they are all different – and we should do something to make the world a better place. Our time, our talents and our financial resources, are all resources we need to steward. We should give use all of these, not only when it’s easy and we are in abundance, but, out of generosity.

      On the other hand, I would suggest that for some reason we are afraid to discuss the monetary part of those resources in an open and blunt fashion. We often water it down by bringing it into a broader discussion. I think this is part of our obsession with money.

      It’s only when we are willing to talk about it in an open and transparent way, that we can let go of it and not be obsessed by it. Having a little more money than the typical person doesn’t make me better, or worse, than anyone else. It’s amoral. It’s neutral. It’s how I use that wealth that matters. Am I generous? Am I a good steward? Do I use it to bless others, or, am I obsessed by it, ashamed of it, scared to talk about it?

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