There is a disaster in your community, and opportunities for giving donations abound. What is your response? You receive a cash gift for your birthday. What do you do with it? Have you ever wondered why you respond the way you do to a situation that involves money? How do you make your choices for earning, spending, giving, saving, and investing money? Through your life you have accumulated many messages about money. These messages have come from your parents and family, advertisers, teachers, the culture around you, and your faith community. All of these messages have contributed to forming you in your attitudes, choices, and actions in relation to the role of money in your life.
Our brokenness often causes us to revert to self-centered and selfish ways, contrary to even our own best desires and intentions. Why does this happen? An awareness of our formation in relationship to money can provide some clues to understanding the answer to this question.
A “Money Autobiography” is a resource to assist you in reflecting on the story of your life in relationship to money. The intent is to provide a path for you to discover more clearly your relationship to money and how it has been formed during your lifetime. In the course of writing a money autobiography, some discover that money controls them. Others discover that they control money. We can also ask: “Where is God in the midst of this? What is God’s desire for me in relationship to money?” There is a kind of adventure in discovery process!
The Bible reveals to us that we are children of a generous, gracious, merciful, and forgiving God. As those who seek to embrace our baptismal calling, living as children of God, our lives are to reflect the God who loves us, claims us, and sends us into the world to live and love each other as God loves us. To love each other as God loves us includes being generous, as God is generous. Our brokenness often causes us to revert to self-centered and selfish ways, contrary to even our own best desires and intentions. Why does this happen? An awareness of our formation in relationship to money can provide some clues to understanding the answer to this question.
As you begin writing your money autobiography, it is important to acknowledge that reflecting on your story may seem uncomfortable. Formation in relation to money often includes the overt or covert message that you are not to think about these things or talk about them outside the family. But what you remember, answer, and ponder in this exercise is only for your own well-being. It is not intended to be shared with others except at your choosing. The gift of self-awareness can, however, be experienced as a key to a new realm of freedom and discovery: “Oh, that is why I do/say/think this way in a particular situation!” Especially as one may seek to grow the capacity to be a “cheerful giver,” this self-awareness can become truly significant.
When the time comes to begin reflecting and writing, begin prayerfully, remembering that God is in the midst of your story. Remember also that the God who created you and loves you, longs for your health and well-being even more than you do. Invite the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you that the insights gained will contribute to your health and well-being. Scripture will also contribute to opening yourself to this process. Are you ready? If so, you will find prompts and questions in the next article to help you construct your money autobiography. Remember, this is your story. There are no right or wrong answers; simply note the experiences and feelings that come to mind. Record your responses in a way that is helpful and meaningful for you.
Talking about your money autobiography with a trusted confidant, friend, spiritual director, or pastor will increase its potential to bear fruit in your life. You may ask such a person simply to listen and pray, or you may invite questions. Remember that this is your story. It is not to be criticized. It is to be received for what it is, to allow the creative and life-giving work of the Holy Spirit to flow so that God may be glorified in your life.
The Holy Spirit promises to be at work in, through, and beyond the process for the purpose of attuning your life more closely to Jesus Christ. As we grow in desire and capacity to open our lives to the leading of the Holy Spirit in relationship to money, we know not where it will lead–except we really do. We will be led to reflect all the more the compassionate care and generosity of God as God has been revealed in Jesus Christ. Insofar as past formation, which causes us to be limited or even bound to the past, is loosened and lessened in power, our lives are freed to let our treasure be with God alone.
Some Questions to Use in Your Money Autobiography
- What were the economic conditions of your family in your growing up years?
- Describe the first residence you can remember. Did your housing change over the years?
- What was the prevailing attitude about money in your family? Never enough? Plenty? Not talked about? Talked about openly?
- How did you come to have money in your possession as a child? Allowance? Ask for it? Work for it? Given as needed? How did you feel about this?
- Who taught you how to give? What were you taught?
- Describe a time when you became aware that you had more money than some of your friends and a time when you realized you had less money than some others.
Teens to Adulthood
- Recall events and experiences from high school that involved things like clothes, cars, friends, etc. What associations do the memories have with money?
- Did the amount of money you had as a teenager relate to your feelings of self-worth?
- When did you open your first bank account, and what was the significance of that event?
- When did you obtain your first credit card? Was it a blessing or problem?
- How did money relate to decisions about education after high school?
- Did the experience of paying your own expenses change your attitudes about money? Did you grow more alike or different from how your parents dealt with money?
- How has career and/or family shaped your current views about money?
Journey of Faith
- What are the things you remember hearing about giving during your growing-up years — proverbs, maxims, spoken (or unspoken) instructions about money?
- How were these teachings related to your faith and God?
- Ponder the legacy regarding money that you received thus far in your lifetime.
- What would you like to experience differently in your relationship with money? What prevents you from experiencing it? What inspires you to grow into this new relationship?
- Jesus teaches that where one’s treasure is, there will be one’s heart also; where is your treasure and where is your heart? Are they where you long for them to be?
- What do you sense the Holy Spirit may be leading you to see differently in your relationship with money?
This article is adapted from “A Money Autobiography,” Currents in Theology and Mission, October, 2009, © 2009 Lutheran School of Theology and Mission. Used by permission.