You Are How You Act, Not Just How You Believe

“Hey, why the long face?” asked my pastor.

That Sunday morning, I was feeling so bad about something that had happened the day before that my pastor could see it on my face.

“Well, I’m kinda embarrassed to tell you,” I replied.

“Come on, Shah. You know me better than that. Tell me what’s bugging you.”

Like a kid caught after breaking his next-door neighbor’s window with a slingshot, I spilled the beans, “In three years of marriage this has never happened to us. For the first time one of our checks bounced.”

With a surprised look on his face, he began to laugh, and said, “ Let me tell you a secret. For the first time in my marriage, I wrote a check that didn’t bounce.”

Of course, he was exaggerating, but like a neon sign on top of a cheap motel, a light went on in my head, “So, you don’t have to live within your means, and it’s OK to write bad checks? Wow…There really are people who live this way?”

I was raised in a culture where we had to purchase everything in cash. No credit cards. No loans from the bank. There were no entitlement delusions. You were only entitled to that which you could afford in hard currency. No cash, no carry! That was the end of that tune. My parents spent years saving their money so they could carpet a room, or buy a secondhand car – not because they were poor, but because they were wise and practical with their finances. That is why, that Sunday, I was rather ashamed of what had transpired the day before, and did not expect my pastor’s response.

Sure, my pastor was joking, but I’m amazed at how, today, the same entitlement mentality prevails even among Christians.

While at a wedding, in a circle of Christian friends, I over heard one man, without batting an eye, boast, “My house is going into foreclosure. I haven’t paid my mortgage for the last six months, and now I’m looking for a smaller house.”

My first reaction was to slap the brother and scream at him, “Where is the honor in your action, you who boast of your Christian faith? Who told you, somehow, you are entitled to buy a house you couldn’t afford? And now, instead of settling your debt, you’re looking for another house!”

36 years ago when Karen and I got married, I inherited her 1969 VW Bug that her parents had given her as a high school graduation present. I still have the car and drive it on occasion. At one time, some of my church members told me how embarrassed they were to see their pastor drive such a beat-up car, but that didn’t matter to me. I wanted to be an example to my church and was hoping for the members to learn the importance of living within their means even in a land that is built on spending and credit. Besides all that, I truly loved driving my VW. In fact, in 2000 I had it completely refurbished – a job that was done by a friend whom I paid gradually as the work progressed.

In 2005, after paying off our mortgage and existing car loans, I looked through our finances to see if I could afford to purchase a new car (because, any more, I could not hack the summer heat in a car with no A/C). As it turned out, we could afford it, so for the second time in my life—The first time was over 37 years ago–I went out and purchased a new car for myself.

Let me sum up what I’m trying to convey to you in this New Year: You are how you act and not just what you believe. Telling people what you believe isn’t going to cut it if you don’t live accordingly. Jesus told us to let our light shine so those around us would see it and glorify the Father. In these economically tough days when many are desperately looking for solutions that can offer them comfort, we can be that light by putting aside our childish entitlement attitude, and as an example, live wisely within the means God has granted us.

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13 thoughts on “You Are How You Act, Not Just How You Believe

  1. Its interesting you wrote this. I was raised on the credit culture and fell victim to it when I was freshly 18. (I'm your son's age.) I was taught you had to have credit and the way to get it was to spend and buy, but I had no idea what my means were because I was too blinded by the creditor predators telling me I could afford things even when I couldn't. Almost a decade later, I'm half way out of debt. I don't count my student loans because I consider those an investment. But I made a lot of poor decisions and within the last few years I started the no cash no carry theory. I read recently in a book I was reading (The Revolt by S. Wise Bauer) a comment about money and credit and how paying for stuff without any funds to back it up is pretty much theft. I think when you look at it from that standpoint, paying for stuff with credit where there is no real money backing it, just your promise of paying it eventually, is pretty much theft, especially in this day and age when so many people rack up thousands of dollars in debts and either avoid paying them and let collections agencies leave numerous voicemails or just file bankruptcy. It's sad and I'm ashamed to have been one of those people, but in a sense, having gone through troubles and working my way out on my own, I feel like someone who has been born again and has seen the evils of the world and vowed to not succumb to them again. It feels more uplifting to be able to look at mistakes one made in the past and be able to resolve them over the course of years as I feel I learned a lesson that will benefit my future decisions instead of taking a drastic choice like bankruptcy. I also would like to state that I was laid off in Nevada, which has been suffering drastically with the economy, almost two years ago. I just finally started working full time and did odd and end jobs while raising our son. I never saw losing my job as a bad thing but as a blessing in disguise that allowed me to stay with our son and help him grow to a confident little toddler. I truly felt like God was with us more than ever these last two years shedding miracle upon miracle on us to allow us to make ends meet. Back to your message, living within your means isn't a bad thing. People don't need fancy phones. My husband doesn't even have a cell phone. I have a 1976 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale I paid $500 cash for and it has been the best car yet and I love it. Life is what you make of it. If you are not happy enough with God, family, friends, and your health, if you need materialistic goods to be happy, you will never truly find the happiness you seek in life, but debts and clutter. Personally, I think the VW is a charming little car and could never think it a bad car, but I hear you on the AC thing.

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  2. DasBoogs, enjoyed reading you bio. Since you know Todd and lived in San Fernando, does this mean we've met? In any case, anyone who makes concealed carry couture is a friend of mine. too bad I can't carry one those myself–maybe when I'm under cover as a drag queen.
    thanks for taking the time to read my post and I'm so sorry for what you've experienced so young in life. However, I'm glad you're on the right track. i know you'll be a much better mom for having gone through the experience.

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  3. I love this! Thank you for being so upright when it came to finances because it rubbed off on me. I am one of the few in my age bracket that does not have debt (other than from Grad school). Thank you for teaching me to spend within my means, and only put on a credit card what I will be able to pay off in 30 days. You have taught me so many valuable lessons in life, but this has to be in the top 3. I am very grateful that you and mom were so wise. You are my favorite daddy ever!

    P.S. when I first saw the picture I thought you were trying to sell the VW. You are going to have to pry the keys out of my dead hands because I love that thing. And I, like you, will probably never buy a new car until my future kids are away at college and I have a huge surplus…that will be about 30 years from now.

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  4. Hi, Shah, As you know, I am a retired bank Pres. & CEO. Your blog caused some smiles as I recall the bank I spent years in is located in an elite college town where annual fees are 43K+. I heard so many stories from students who bounced checks and couldn't understand why they could not write cks. as long as they had blanks to do so. They threw the cover and register away as soon as they opened the acct. A call to 'daddy' always solved the problem. And, further, I drove a
    '61 VW bug for a lot of yrs. Loved the car so much.
    Living within our means has taken on new meaning with the economy in the straits it is in. My heart breaks as I see so many foreclosures in the local paper each week. We need to get back to Biblical principles as well as common sense. Also, borrowers need education to know the predator who is still lurking. Using ones's head and instincts goes a long way and much further when coupled by God's guidance.

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  5. Charlene, you're such a great source of encouragement to me. I so appreciate you.
    I can't believe any parent being so irresponsible as not to teach their children the simple economy of balancing a checkbook. But then again, we shouldn't be too surprised when we have a government that not only doesn't know how to balance out her budget, but has created such an entitlement attitude among our young people.
    For a few years, before getting married, I worked as a teller in a bank. That was way before computers, and all comments about customers were written on the back of their signature cards for all of us to see. I always thought that to be so humiliating. So, I never wanted any bad comments on the back of my sig-card.
    don't you wish you still had your 61 VW? And, NO way, I'm not selling my VW.

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  6. Moore Musing, thanks for taking the time to read my post. I see you also live creatively 😉
    The other day I heard a caller on a talk-show make a confession that went like this:
    “I'm very embarrassed to make this confession, but last night as my wife and I were trying to see how we could reduce our expense to afford our health insurance, we realized that we spend $400 per month eating out. If we quit eating out, we can afford the any insurance we want.”
    As I shared the above with a friend, he said, “What, only $400/ month?”
    I spend about $200/month on groceries to feed my wife and me. We probably could eat out more often, but I'm a good cook, so we rather eat at home, and save our money.

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  7. I too was not taught about handling finances growing up. We didn't have much, and didn't need much. When I got to college, I was one of the many who didn't know to be cautious about credit. My husband is wonderful with money. We put everything on our credit cards (for the flier miles), but our card is paid off every month. THe only debt we have left is student loans. It was a difficult transition, but now I love this life. It is much more freeing. Finding ways to be responsible and save has almost become fun in it's challenge. 🙂

    I too believe Christians need to set a much better example with their lifestyle and their finances. I have many friends and family who are missionaries, and I have seen both the beautiful and the ugly sides of it. Some give everything to their service, while others “absolutely must” have a new iPad (with the $ donated by others towards missions work) before they head to their next missions base. I go back and forth between heartbreak and disgust. It really brings me joy to see posts like yours. Thanks again.

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  8. Moore Musing, isn't wonderful to have married the right person? I too learned much about finances from my wife. She is quite cautious when it comes to spending. We always laugh at ourselves for not being as familiar with the restaurants in town as most of our friends are. We hardly ever eat out. Of course, being as good a cook as I am helps with not wanting to eat out anyway 😉

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