Does Your Money Define You?

by Jason on November 30, 2009


The 2008-09 recession has been one of the roughest ones in history.  Jobs have been lost, lifestyles altered and net worth’s slashed.

There has, however, been a couple positives from this recession - primarily it has forced many people to get rid of debt and begin saving more. 

For some of us it has also revealed what we really put our hope and trust in, and has given us a wake up call that many of us needed (myself included) – namely that we are not defined by our money.

So, what about you – does your money define you?

Before you answer too quickly – let’s take a look at how you could tell if you are defined by your money.

What does “defined by money” mean?

What does it mean for your money to define you?  Consider these examples:

  • Do you feel better about yourself in more expensive clothes?  Or, do you feel better about yourself in clothes bought from the thrift store?
  • Do you feel you are more or less of a person based on the car you drive?
  • Do you feel embarrassed to have someone over because of your house?  Or, do you love to have people over so they can see your house?

Most of us will be quick to say we are not defined by our money until we start looking at our motivations.  If we are really honest with ourselves we would probably see we are more defined by money than we care to admit.

2 Camps of People Defined by Money

I think there are two basic sides of the fence people will fall on this issue:

The Frivolous

This is an obvious one.  Those who live a wanton lifestyle and constantly need and buy new things even though their old stuff works perfectly fine are essentially defined by money. 

Now wait a second – just because I buy new things doesn’t mean I’m defined by money!

You’re absolutely right!  I agree with you.  But here’s what I’m suggesting – take a look at your motivation for constantly buying the latest and greatest gadgets or upgrading your wardrobe every season or trading in your car every three years:

More than likely what we’ll find if we were to “bare all” is that there is something inside our hearts that wants others to be impressed by us.

Buying things is not wrong unless it’s couched in a motivation to gain recogntion, get people to notice us or simply impress others.  

At that point we become what we buy – we are defined by our possessions!

The Frugal

I can already here some of you saying,

Whoa, whoa – don’t tell me I’m defined by my money – I’m so frugal I’ve been wearing my stone-washed jeans since high school!

Believe me, we’ve noticed.

Frugality is a great thing!  It’s good to manage your money with watchful care.  It’s all part of good stewardship. 

Then how could someone who is frugal be defined by money? 

Some of you are so frugal that you become defined by your frugality.  Your lack of money, your thriftiness or your super-shopping deals are so much of who you are that you are actually defined by it. 

“Wait a minute – that doesn’t seem fair”,  you say.  Again, what’s the motivation.  Is it stewardship – or is it to impress others by the fact that you are so frugal. 

Does your frugality make you feel superior to others who don’t “spend as much as you”?

What should define us?

We are not owners of our money – rather, we are stewards.

Stewards are managers of someone else’s goods.  “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it”.

Since our money is not our own, we shouldn’t let it define us. 

Even if you’re not a Christian – you are not the car you drive, the clothes you wear, or the house you live in!  You are a person created in God’s image and should be stretching yourself to not be defined by your cash.  

Life isn’t about how much money you have or how frugal you are – it comes down to the quality of your relationships and serving others – that creates a deeper joy.

If you are a Christian you should be defined by the fact that you are a child of God and a steward of His resources.  He has purchased you with the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus! 

No matter how much money you have or how frugal you are, you are a Christ-follower and should use your money to glorify Him, not define yourself.

How about you?  Have you been defined by your money?  What would you like to be defined by?

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin@OutOfYourRut November 30, 2009 at 8:13 am

“For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” Luke 12:33-34

The motivation to have the latest and the best speaks volumes. Just the fact that we may be driven to acquire something means it’s important to us, otherwise we wouldn’t bother pursuing it.

Good catch on the frugal being ruled by money! The excessively frugal are often ruled by a fear of not having money. It’s a different direction from the money fixation of the frivolous, but it’s a money obsession all the same.
.-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..Ten Common Sense Ways to Reduce Our Identity Footprint =-.

Jason November 30, 2009 at 8:37 am

Thanks Kevin. Great point – the fact that we are driven to acquire something does mean it’s important to us – and it’s amazing how much effort and time we put into these things (I include myself in that as well!).

We all need to evaluate where our treasure really is and be honest with ourselves that oftentimes we treasure what we shouldn’t.
.-= Jason´s last blog ..Why You Have a Hard Time Sharing Your Wealth And How To Overcome It! =-.

Wojciech Kulicki November 30, 2009 at 9:25 am

I do enjoy buying things, but I’m always very practical when it comes to spending money. I have to convince myself that I truly need something, that it will make my life better, or that it will enhance it in some way.

For example, I’m considering buying a Flip Cam. At first, it might seem like a superficial purchase of a new toy–but it will actually help me communicate with my family better, document the birth of my first child, and expand my blogging. So it would be a very practical purchase…

The same goes for everything else. So while I am not overly frugal, I am not a big spender either. Sitting on the fence somewhere in between…
.-= Wojciech Kulicki´s last blog ..How to Stay Frugal and Focused in a Recovery =-.

Peter November 30, 2009 at 11:03 am

Great point about how even frugal folks can be defined by money, and can allow it to become an idol of sorts. It’s best to keep our focus where it belongs, on our relationship with Christ!
.-= Peter´s last blog ..How To Save Hundreds Of Dollars On Your Tax Bill By Challenging Your Property Taxes =-.

Jason @ One Money Design December 2, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Good post and point about how the frugal can be defined by their frugality. Once we lean so heavily on the side of money defining us (either with frugality or material pursuit) we are putting it before God. Creating such idols draws us further away in our relationship. So how do we avoid doing such things? I’m a big believer in having a plan for our money. It’s how we manage it that will keep us from creating those idols. Without a plan, I think we’re tempted to spend more, or perhaps let frugality rule over us. A plan is a concious decision of how we’ll use every dollar in the coming month so that we can insure we’re giving, saving, and spending wisely.
.-= Jason @ One Money Design´s last blog ..Handy List of FREE Debt & Credit Calculators =-.

Jason December 2, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Wojciech – I think you bring up a valuable point about moderation and balance. I think a well-balanced life will not push us in either direction and hopefully will help us avoid being defined by our stuff or lack thereof.
.-= Jason´s last blog ..5 Reasons Why Some People Never Get Ahead Financially (And Others Do) =-.

Jason December 2, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Pete, thanks for brining the focused on Christ point up – it’s hard a lot of time, but we need to keep the Main Thing the main thing, which is Christ and Him crucified and the mission of telling others.
.-= Jason´s last blog ..Is Retirement Biblical? (Part 1) =-.

Andre January 17, 2011 at 2:27 pm

NO MAN SHOULD DEFINE HIS SELF ON HOW MUCH MONEY HE HAS FOR ALL CAN BE LOST IN A BLINK OF A EYE

Anonymous January 19, 2011 at 3:16 am

So true!

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