In summary, character is really how you see money and material possessions. How you value them determines the character you show in public and the life you live in private. How you behave at the office, school or at home, in public vehicles, in malls, grocery stores, in the streets and along sidewalks–all largely depend on your principles on money and possessions.
When you’re sometimes moody in the morning and how that affects how you greet people–well, one way or another, it has something to do with money. You realize that? Perhaps it’s how your budget and bills don’t match up and the deadline for paying them was yesterday? Or how you and your spouse argued about finances?
In fact , how you value things in life (or judge their importance) is often based on your appraisal of money and possessions. When looking for a school to enroll in, you try to see how many people who graduated from it ended up good–and that means, ended up with lots of money. When looking for a job, you look for companies with financial stability. When hiring a worker, you try to check how honest he would be with your money and possessions or assets. When marrying someone, you consider his financial standing. If you’re a man, you decide first if you have enough cash before you propose to the woman you love. When on the road and you’re deciding which way to take, you choose a shorter route that would save you on fuel.
On the other hand, character is also how people see you in relation to how money can affect you. When we “label” people (we do that often in our minds), we usually do it judging on his attitude or capability with money and possessions. We often say, “He’s lazy,” because of his attitude to work–or his little efforts at money-making. Or, “He’s average,” or “below average” when he doesn’t produce much financially or produce below the standard.
Character is really how you see money.
When we say, “He wouldn’t amount to anything,” or “He has a great future,” we again refer to his promising ability or potential to make money and own great possessions. When we say, “He’s good but he doesn’t know how to put his expertise to good use,” we mean that a person has potentials but because he’s not making good money with it, he doesn’t know how to put it to “good use.” In short, we conclude he’s a total waste.
Thus, how money and possessions are seen and how people see others in relation to how money and possessions can affect their lives is how character is defined.
Very few individuals see character outside of finances and material ownership. When John the baptizer said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” he didn’t say that based on Christ’s financial statement. When Jesus saw Nathan and declared how truthful his character was, it was not based on money or possessions:
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” [John 1.47]
So, how do you see money and possessions? Sad, but I often hear church people (even church leaders) appraise pastors based on their money and possessions–the income of their churches and how big the church is. If your church is small and producing little income, they see it almost as total waste. Appraisal is very seldom on spirituality.
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. [Luke 6.45]
Another version of the passage above puts it this way: “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” You see what Jesus said here? “The treasure of his heart.” That’s what dictates what we say–or how we define things and people. Some other versions say, “Out of the good stored up in his heart.”
From the above passages, Expert Builder would put it this way–Out of the kind of treasure stored up in one’s heart, one judges or measures things and people.
And how you judge and measure also defines your character.
Even Jesus was not exempt from this. He valued money and possessions less when he once said, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Having that mindset, he lived a life free from the love of money, and that defined his character all through his life. He was King and yet he lived simply. He was often with the poor and simple folks. He was never impressed with riches or extravagance. Once, his disciples marveled at the extravagance of the temple buildings in Jerusalem:
Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” [Matthew 24.2]
What are you easily impressed with? That will set your priorities and value system in life. The God or god in your heart will dictate your life and character.
Money and possessions are not bad things. We all need them. In fact, they’re among God’s blessings to us. There’s nothing wrong with being rich or poor–God has special designs for both. But money and possessions should never define who we are. We define money–it’s proper place and use in our lives–but we should never let it dictate who we or who people are.