Money Matters and Our Mental Health
Managing your money and mental health.
‘When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life. Now that I am old, I know that it is.’
-- Oscar Wilde
Money is, undeniably, an essential part of life. Whether you are working on a business plan, creating an additional revenue stream through property, or figuring out how to break even at the end of the month after paying rent, bills, and that insatiable student loan debt. Thinking about money in today’s world is unavoidable. We can seek to not be dictated by it and base our lives, relationships, and decisions on other values, but short of moving to the wilderness and living off the land, we can not escape the need to think about or plan around money.
It is no surprise, then, that financial pressures are a common cause of stress and anxiety. Those who do not have enough money are constantly thinking about how to survive with what little they have, while those fortunate to have money are under pressure to keep, invest, or spend it wisely. Indeed, a burgeoning career, successful business, or newly acquired property trigger questions of how and where best to invest finances, which can be overwhelming with so many options and sources of advice available. On the other end of the spectrum, the pressure of debt is particularly debilitating, as the stigma around it means that people can struggle to ask for help and become isolated as a result, which is exacerbated when they feel that they must resort to cutting back on essentials such as heating, eating, and a social life.
Research by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute highlights the tragic, extreme result of this, finding that people in serious debt are three times as likely to have thought about suicide in the past year. Whatever our current relationship with money is, it clearly has the potential to be a major burden and impact on our mental health.
So what can be done? We need money to operate in modern life, but it is counterproductive to allow money matters to sink so deep into our lives that it becomes a source of anxiety and debilitating stress. It seems unsustainable to accept money-based stress as something to quietly handle alone, just because it is something that everyone is dealing with. The Bible actually has a lot to say about money, and what it looks like to be wise with finances. God wants us to bring all of our worries to Him:
Come to Me, all you who are labour and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Therefore, faith in God, in his sovereignty and all-knowing power, means trusting Him with and for everything. That includes our financial worries. We can pray, boldly, about difficult decisions or about how to prioritise spending. Search scripture for what it looks like to be wise with money: Job, Proverbs, and Matthew 6 each contain lessons on how we are called to manage money, its loss, and the anxieties that it brings.
For the love of money is a root for all kinds of evils.
1 Timothy 6:10
Contrary to popular belief, the Bible does not teach that money is the cause of evil in this world, or against God’s will for our lives. The love of money, however, is. Indeed, anything that takes our mind and heart away from God, making us forget His love and purpose for our lives, is an idol. We must therefore work to not obsess about money, but trust God that, like all things, our finances are in His hands.
Furthermore, a central theme of Christianity and the Bible is generosity. It teaches us to be generous not only when we have a certain amount of money to share, but to be generous with whatever we have. Look at the life of Jesus: He honoured a poor widow who gave just two small copper coins to the temple because, though it did not match the presumably grander gifts simultaneously being given by rich temple-goers, her donation was worth more than all the others to Him because it represented a greater sacrifice. The woman entrusted what little she had to God, indicating that she believed it was more valuable in His hands than in her own. This level of radical generosity was an act of worship, and represents how we must see our money today. The Bible teaches us to loosen our anxious grip on our finances and acknowledge that God is the true source of our job, income, and future. We are not the ultimate provider for our loved ones, or for ourselves, because God is.