In God We Trust: Your Money and a Higher Power

In God We Trust
Image courtesy Kevin Dooley.

“Whenever a man makes haste, God too hastens with him.” – Aeschylus

A few days ago, I had a long conversation with an old friend, who I’ll call “Randall.” Randall is in a deep financial, personal, and professional crisis. Instead of tackling the challenge head-on, Randall seems to be in something of a holding pattern. He’s just drawing his unemployment, putting off some personal responsibilities, and spending a lot of his time goofing off on the internet.

I asked him why he’s not searching for a job or addressing some of his other concerns and he told me, “God will provide. I just have to be patient.”

Personal faith in God can be a powerful thing. I’ve witnessed how such a faith has helped guide people to some incredible positive changes in their lives. I’ve seen how a community of people guided by their faith can keep a food pantry running. I’ve seen people of faith making sure that children have a wonderful meal and a nice gift at Christmastime, and I’ve witnessed countless other positive results from personal faith.

One key factor that unites all of these good things, however, is taking action. The tools may have been provided by a higher power, but without a person standing up and saying, “I’m going to keep this food pantry open” or “I’m going to make sure that Johnny and Jenny have a nice Christmas this year,” none of these things would have happened.

Were they called by a higher power to do these things? Was it their own conscience? In the end, it doesn’t really matter. We can’t know what caused them to do it, but what we can see is that they did these things. Because of someone’s actions, the food pantry is open and Johnny has presents under the Christmas tree this year.

This translates directly into one’s own life. At any given point in your life, you can choose to wait for opportunity to come along or you can make opportunity come to you. You can sit back, draw an unemployment check, and wait for a great job to fall on your lap. On the other hand, you could spend your time trying to build a side business, training yourself for a new job, or actively pounding the pavement for new work.

If you’re struggling with debt, you can just keep spending like you always are and believe that money will fall into your lap, or you can make the active decision to cut your spending, get things into better shape, and lead a life with opportunities that are free of the pressure of debt.

If you’re waiting for God to provide the tools you need to change something in your life, you should know that those tools have likely already been provided to you. You have free will. You have the power to choose how to spend your time and energy. You have a community around you that’s willing to help you. You have a creative and thoughtful mind, one that’s capable of processing information and translating it to your own life (if that weren’t true, you wouldn’t be reading this).

God has blessed me with a lot of gifts in my life. I’m incredibly lucky to have what I have. In fact, I’m incredibly lucky to be able to get up in the morning and breathe a breath of fresh air. I don’t expect God to also drop a pile of cash or an undeserved contract for some great opportunity right onto my lap. It’s up to me to take all of the gifts that I have and get to work if I want something better for my life or for the world around me.

By “gifts,” I don’t mean money. I don’t mean the right to a steady income. I mean things like relationships with people who care about me, the ability to write quickly, the ability to absorb ideas relatively quickly, and the opportunity to live in a place where it’s possible to build a strong future for yourself and your family. Those are gifts, too, and they’re powerful ones.

On our currency, I see the phrase, “In God We Trust.” I suppose one can take that to mean a lot of things. My take on it has been that it doesn’t say “In the government we trust” or “In America we trust.” Instead, it speaks to something more personal and individual.

If we want to live the American dream of financial independence, we shouldn’t expect that others will simply hand it to us. Instead, we should look around us for the gifts we’ve been provided – whether those gifts are equal to the gifts of others or not – and the opportunities that others have provided for all to use, then focus on using those gifts to achieve what we want from life and what we choose to share with others. Money itself is nothing more than a way to exchange those gifts.

Keep that in mind the next time you read the phrase “In God we trust” on your currency.

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19 thoughts on “In God We Trust: Your Money and a Higher Power

  1. lurker carl says:

    This reminds me of an old joke. A man heard about an impending flood on the radio and remarked that God would spare him. He later heard the evacuation notice on TV and again remarked that God would spare his life. The next morning, a firetruck with a public address system came around urging anyone remaining to climb aboard and leave immediately, still he assured himself that God would spare him. Soon the flood waters rose and a police boat paddled to his porch to whisk him to safety but the man refused saying God would spare him. The waters rose even higher, the man chopped a hole through the roof and a rescue helicopter tried to take the man to safety but he again refused as God would spare him. Then the flood waters enveloped the house and the man died. When the man arrived in heaven, he asked God why his life was not spared. God replied, “Well, I warned you on the radio and TV, then I sent a firetruck, a police boat and finally a helicopter to rescue you. Could I have done anything more if you wouldn’t take the first step to spare yourself?”

  2. Sandy says:

    Your post greatly reminded me of a ‘joke’ my husband told me recently:

    An announcement on the radio foretells a great storm coming and advices everybody in a certain village to evacuate.
    One man sees countless people fleeing the town but he stays put. God will save me, he thinks.

    As the water rises, the man is forced to the top floor of his home. A rowing boat comes by and offers him a lift. He declines because “God will save me”.

    When the rising water finally forces him on the roof and a helicopter comes by the man again declines the offer of a lift to safety. “Thank you but God will save me.”

    The poor man drowns and when he meets his maker he asks: “Lord, why have you not saved me? I so trusted in you!”

    And the Lord answers: I sent you a radio announcement, a rowboat and a helicopter! What more would you have of me!!

    Moral of the story is of course: God helps those who help themselves!

    Thanks for a great post!

  3. Tracy says:

    I do want to point out that you *can’t* draw unemployment if you’re not actively looking for a job. Granted, I know that people can manipulate the system by deliberately applying for jobs that they don’t qualify for, but it’s just because “Randall” isn’t doing what *you* think he should do, doesn’t mean he’s not looking.

    Unless he’s committing fraud, in which case you should probably ask him if thinks God approves of that.

  4. Tom says:

    How thought provoking. I recently saw a post on facebook from a distant relative, who wrecked her car and replaced it with a new one. She’s got a lot of money issues that sound like your friend, and she made a comment about being blessed to get financing. I thought to myself, huh never considered God’s impact on my ability to be approved for a loan. Also, wouldn’t be happy that God caused me a car accident and a new set of car payments.
    I liked the way you put this, because I prefer to believe that the higher power isn’t involved in my everyday affairs, but cares that I make the right choices for me and my family.

  5. AnnJo says:

    Warning — Grammar Police.

    You use “who” for the subject of a sentence and “whom” for the object. If you’re not sure which you’re dealing with, restructure the sentence to use a pronoun. If you’d use “he” or “she” or “I” or “they” then “who” is correct; if you’d use “him” or “her” or “me” or “them” then “whom” is correct.

    Thus: “who I’ll call Randall” becomes “I’ll call him Randall” and tells you the correct choice was “whom.”

  6. Liz says:

    @Tracy: I always thought that you had to be looking for work to get unemployment as well, but that’s apparently not true. I recently helped a friend with no computer skills file their semi-weekly unemployment request online, and the only requirements in Pennsylvania were “available to work” and “did not turn down work”. Which kind of annoyed me because “available” and “seeking” are not the same thing to me, but that’s a whole other thread…
    On the other hand, he is only “partially” unemployed, as he used to be fulltime, and his employer cut him to occasional shifts (like 8 hours every 3 or 4 weeks). And he is looking, but the unemployment website doesn’t ASK if he’s looking, or require any kind of evidence. There just isn’t much that he is qualified for in this area, and since he has small children he doesn’t really want to leave the region.
    Interestingly, the state is also picking up part of his child support while he’s unemployed (not sure if he has to pay that back or not once he has a job again).

  7. Katie says:

    Maybe Randall just wasn’t interested in discussing the details of his job search with a nosy friend.

  8. Shannon says:

    It’s annoying when Trent does this “who I’ll call Randall” – giving random names to people you know.

  9. Kerry D. says:

    I agree with the overall point of the post–sitting back and waiting for things to fall into place is not likely to lead to success and the life of one’s dreams. I have two relatives recently laid off, who are collecting unemployment, living with parents and not paying rent, and spending their time and money going to Pokemon tournaments. Not looking for work, nor education…It’s just sad that they are not creating opportunities for themselves.

  10. Tracy says:

    @Liz

    Hmm, it must be state specific … I know that in Iowa, you have to actually be looking, though.

    It mostly bugs me because Trent has SO many friends/acquaintances that are unemployed but not looking for work and just happy collecting unemployment.

  11. Vanessa says:

    How long has “Randall” been unemployed? Two months, two years? What is the nature of his “deep financial, personal, and professional crisis”? Maybe what looks like a crisis from the outside isn’t that critical from his perspective. Not everyone has a take-charge type of personality. People have to solve their problems at their own pace.

  12. TLS says:

    I immediately thought of the story described in comments 1 and 2 as well.

    I have a person close to me in a similar situation. Her family is having major financial difficulties, including unemployment problems, bankruptcy and foreclosure. She keeps repeating that ‘everything is going to be fine’ but the situation is bad and could easily spiral out of control. I am scared for this person, and I believe she is in denial about how bad it is. If I say anything about it, I get blasted for not being ‘optimistic’ about the situation.

    This just makes me so sad. Face the problem head on, and deal with it. This won’t be easy, but at least you will be moving in the right direction.

  13. Meg says:

    Similar to “God will provide” I am part of another group that sometimes uses “way will open” if a plan is divinely inspired. And implies that if the plan is not right “way won’t open”. I often found the first a very upper class attitude because some times way opening meant access to money and resources. And other times “way not opening” meant not being willing to give up what was getting in the way.

  14. David says:

    An even older joke came to my mind – a sign that is increasingly displayed, times being what they are:

    In God we trust. Everyone else pays cash.

  15. Joan says:

    I will add the saying “God helps those who help themselves”.

  16. katiebird says:

    great post, thanks.

  17. deRuiter says:

    As a landlord with many low income tenants, it is no surprise that there are people on unemployment not looking for work. Many of my tenants are laid off from time to time and when I ask about job hunting, they brush me off and ignore the question. Finally one of them told me, “If I get unemployment, I get $20./week less than when I work. On unemployment I have no commuting costs, no clock to punch, no boss, and loads of free time, why should I look for work?” And magically, a week before the unemployment runs out, each one manages to get a job. Having 99 weeks unemployment instead of 50 means that they all get longer vacations on the taxpayer dollar.

  18. This reminds me of another joke:

    A man named Josh prays every day, “God, help me win the lottery. God, help me win the lottery.”

    One day a voice calls down from the Heavens:
    “Josh, buy a ticket!!”

    (**Disclaimer: I’m not supporting playing the lottery. It’s just a joke.)

  19. SLCCOM says:

    Trent, it sounds to me like “Randall” might well be suffering from depression, especially if you have noticed that he loses his temper a lot. Encouraging him to join a group of job seekers, or to get therapy, would likely be helpful.

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