While on my lunch break earlier this week I noticed a bumper sticker on a little truck as it passed. Usually bumper stickers make me laugh or I’ll roll my eyes and shake my head. This one was a little different and I found myself puzzling over it for the duration of my afternoon rest.
Act your WAGE! it read. As I looked a little closer my heart sank into my toes. It was promoting a course from a well-known Christian Financial Councilor.
I can appreciate that the intention of the message is to encourage more people to live financially responsible lives rather than going into debt. As someone who has to follow a strict budget, I’ve learned the value of living within my means. However, the wording just didn’t sit well with me for some reason. So I sat down at a park bench under the trees with my sack lunch and I thought about it.
The first thing that came to mind was the word ACT, which is a both a behavior and a mindset.
If I act my wage and that wage is considered in the poverty level, does that mean I have to behave like a beggar who can only dream of nice things from afar all while knowing I’ll never be able to own them? And if I have been blessed with a generous income does that mean I should act rich and flaunt my success with all the latest and greatest?
I can’t speak for everyone, but either lifestyle seems achingly empty to me.
When the bulk of a conversation is focused on wages, it quickly turns into a debate about the “haves and have-nots” rather than life’s blessings. It can also create a mindset self-centeredness rather than looking to the needs of others. From that standpoint, acting my wage can do more to create a divide between me and my neighbor than bridging a gap between one another.
The second thing that stood out to me was the word WAGE, which is our attempt to put value on services rendered.
If I’m honest though, some of the hardest workers I know earn the smallest salary. Some are okay with that. Some are not. So again, putting all our stock in money only creates a sense of emptiness. Anything I earn and purchase in this life as the result of my labor is temporary. It’s not something I can take into eternity. Furthermore, my eyes can’t focus on the Great Provider when they’re set on my income.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past couple of years it’s that even the most secure career isn’t a guaranteed bet in the long run. I have no idea what paths life will take me down and little control over what tax bracket I fall into from one year to the next.
In the end I realized that what really bothered me was that as an organization that claims to espouse godly principles on how to manage money, I don’t believe their bumper sticker reflects a godly viewpoint at all. Enjoying the fruit of your labor is by no means bad, especially when done so in a responsible manner. But our focus should never be about the money.
Rather than acting our wages, shouldn’t we be encouraging each other to invest in the talents we’ve been given? And instead of focusing on what we should or should not buy wouldn’t it be more beneficial if we were to come alongside and mutually encourage one another during the times of plenty and the times of want?
After spending a couple weeks living alongside people in a truly impoverished nation I came away knowing that many of us in the United States (myself included) have little idea just how incredibly fortunate we are. Our society is by no means perfect and life here is by no means “fair,” but we really do have some of the best things this world has to offer.
When I look at it that way, I’m very rich indeed.