Lest you all think our advice trendeth towards encouraging men to grab ahold of dollars at every opportunity (seriously if you think that, start over and re-read), we at Abraham’s Wallet are DELIGHTED to bring you the true story of our friend Steven Molloy. Steven’s rather dramatic tale of following the LORD involves decreasing income and increasing in pretty much everything else that life has to offer. Gents, without further delay, I give you Mr. Molloy:
When I turned 18 I was attending a blue ribbon high school in Cincinnati, Ohio. My class size was about 300 students and my GPA was ranked 2nd to last in my class. I needed half of a credit to graduate, and the guidance counselor told me that I would not be able to participate in graduation. I needed to take gym over the summer and then they would mail me my diploma. Naturally I told her no and I wanted to withdraw myself from school. Before she let me sign the papers she first wanted to give me some “guidance”.
She told me this single decision would be one that I would regret for the rest of my life. She went on to tell me how much she hated that the law allowed me to do this without my parents’ consent or the school’s intervention. My response to her was, “I know that I won’t regret this decision, because the data that I have in this moment is all the data that I have to make this decision. If I get more data in the future I won’t look back on this decision and conclude it was a poor one simply because I gained more information.” She gave me a disapproving look and handed me the papers to sign and I went home.
That day I made a promise to myself to earn more money than the average couple in America. The income of married-couple families was $60,471 at the time so I decided that I would make a goal to earn six figures by the time I turned 30 without a high school diploma, GED, or college education. Today in Cincinnati, Ohio, the average salary for one person is $52,393. Nationwide, the average American under age 65 is earning $46,409 per year, according to the Census Bureau’s current population survey.
So I set off to earn my living according to the American Dream. I wanted the corner office in the high rise, luxury cars, house, kids, toys, vacations, wardrobe, etc. Computers were a hobby of mine since I was 12 so I decided to get into the Information Technology industry. I’ve been fired, I’ve quit, I’ve worked on autopilot, late hours, long weeks, all in the name of hitting my financial goals. By the age of 26 I was earning $70,000 a year. I moved onto working at a local bank in the city at the age of 29 earning $80,000 a year as a base salary. With a raise, bonuses, and profit sharing, I hit my goal (well close to it) of 6 figures at the age of 31.
My response? I felt empty.
I self medicated. I escaped. Don’t hear what I’m not saying: It WAS fun at first. The Benz, the GQ wardrobe, the vacations, the status. Ok ok, now, the status wasn’t Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos personal net worth of 105.1 billion dollars, but the average dropout annual income is $20,241, and I alone was earning almost 2x what the average married couple in America was earning without any formal education.
At the end of that same year, I walked into a local church for the first time since I was a teenager living with my parents. I lived a life up to this point as a non-believer in Christianity (or any religion for that matter). I was right there with John Lennon’s “peace and kindness and let me do what I want” philosophy embodied in the 1971 single Imagine. In October 2013 I started attending church, the next month I gave in to Jesus and was baptized, and by December I seriously wanted to be involved with this church and support what they were going after.
Wonder of wonders, I was presented with an opportunity to work for this organization… for exactly half of what I was earning at the bank. At this time I was divorced and remarried, two kids from the previous marriage (child support of course), and one baby with my lovely wife.
What will a guy do who has chased money his whole life, finding identity, vindication and even rebellion by earning and wasting it, when he’s offered the chance to trade it in for something he feels called to do? It was a huge moment in my life… but I didn’t hesitate. I was on a path with Jesus that was worth far more than money had ever been, or ever could be.
Sensing God was in this, and that I’d know Him better if I jumped… I took the job. When I went into work at the bank to tell my boss and put my notice in, he offered me even more money to stay. I told him, “actually I will be earning a lot less than what I am now; this isn’t about money.” There was silence and then he said, “Well I guess you’ve made your decision. If you ever want to come back give me a call.” I am now about to hit my 4 year anniversary at the church making about the same as I did when I started… and I am more joyful now than in all the 35 years I have been on this planet. And guess what? It’s not because of money.
I am free.
I have 2 kids with my wife and 1 on the way for a grand total of 5 kids. Again, don’t hear what I’m not saying: our family had to adjust to the new living standard and it was bumpy, but looking back, I haven’t dug up in doubt what I planted in faith. You like that one? One of my favorites by Elisabeth Elliot. Money is now a tool, not my purpose. Keeping up with the Joneses? Nope. Stressing over debt? Nope. If I can’t pay cash for it then I can’t afford it so I don’t buy it, couldn’t charge it if I wanted to. At the time of this writing I was offered a job making nearly twice what I was earning at the bank. I turned it down; no regrets.
I’m crazy. I’m stupid. I’m irresponsible. I’m not providing for my family. These are the statements spoken over me by close family and friends (outside of the church). I don’t expect them to understand or approve of my decisions, I’m not seeking that. I don’t worry about my retirement, I don’t worry about the stock market, I don’t worry about what our government is doing, I don’t worry about how I am going to be fed or how the bills are going to be paid because miraculously I’ve experienced everything coming together with what my family needs when we need it without money being the central part of our story.
With regards to the recent job offer: when I weigh the pros and cons of the higher salary (which is still just a phone call away) compared to the spiritual growth I’ve experienced, the community that has come around me and my family, the knowledge and resources we’ve been provided, having normal/healthy work hours, and all of the priceless love we enjoy, I wouldn’t give any of it up for anything–especially money. Our family actually does the opposite of hoarding now: we tithe our money to our church (totally new to me). Again, don’t hear what I’m not saying: it’s not out of pride or obligation, but from joyful generosity that we learned from others around us. Money is only a tool to us now, no different than a hammer.
What is important to me now, and has become my new goal, is first leading my family to have a healthy spiritual life so my kids and grandkids can have a healthy spiritual life beyond me. Finances are taught, of course, but not above the importance of relationships, physical health, and wisdom & knowledge. In that order.
I don’t regret only having made it past 11th grade. I’m not nervous and I don’t romanticize the salary I turned down, which would be more than I ever set out to make. I’ve just found that once I let go of the control that money had over my mind in a tangible way, I began to understand my true identity and what was truly real and what mattered.
…and all the money pulled together in the world can’t purchase that.