Listen bros, I love ya. But I’ve got bad news. There’s a cancer that seems to be metastasizing across the dudes who we talk to every week here at the Wallet, and that cancer is called SHAME. When we start to talk about money, or investing, or budgeting, or generosity, or debt—really anything that has to do with your financial leadership in your home—most of you start exhibiting the symptoms of this silent killing machine. No lie: shame is the number one word that men (and women) are using when they talk honestly with us about their money scene. Some of those people have made huge messes of their financial life, but others, by any outside evaluation, are doing great. Shame is an indiscriminate predator.
But I’ve also got good news (yay!)… and it’s NOT that you’re really great and should drink some self-esteem tea and chant an affirmation or do some yoga. We’re NOT here to say that you can save yourself by hard work and smart choices. The good news is that, for a follower of Christ, shame is a foreign invader in your land, and you can evict it as surely as you welcomed it into the fold. So if, when you start thinking or reading about money and family leadership, you start to feel early symptoms of shame… please, my good man… read on. But first, let’s look at a few definitions:
- A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
- A loss of respect or esteem; dishonor.
- A person, action, or situation that brings a loss of respect or honor.
So, I know a guy who, when he’s totally honest with himself, dreams of leading a family. He dreams of prospering in the Five Capitals, leaving a growing inheritance to his children’s children, and fantasizes in his heart of hearts of being the kind of family builder that Abraham was. But, he’s got a problem: early (and not so early) in his life, he engaged in some wrong and foolish behavior. I mean, he didn’t just miss perfection by an inch: he royally biffed it like the proudest pagan you know. And he just… can’t… help… but feel that his failure has stained him forever, disqualifying him from the Great Prize of Family Leadership.
Of course, the story above is mine. And yours. And everyone you’ve ever run across. And while shame is happy to trampoline on your confidence based on those myriad failures we can remember far too well; shame isn’t satisfied to JUST remind you of past failures. No, shame is greedy for more. (This is the cancerousness of which I was referring earlir.) Shame will take a neutral situation in your present (example: perhaps you got yourself a degree, you smarty, and now your situation is one of debt) and use it, also, to tell you that you aren’t worthy of honor. Was that foolish or wrong behavior on your part? No; you just incurred some totally reasonable education debt. But shame is there all the same, as if it had found you in some seedy sin, ready to accuse, belittle, and demean you into inactivity and ineffectiveness.
“But isn’t shame just God telling me how he really feels about my failures? God’s usually down on me, right?” NO. Get off of me with that talk. “Godly sorrow leads to repentance, which ALWAYS produces salvation… WITHOUT REGRET”. So if you’re feeling some Godly sorrow because you’re rolling in dough and you use it to bathe yourself in luxury – okay, great. Just repent of that crap and enjoy some salvation. If you ceded the leadership (financial or otherwise) of your family to your wife, no sweat! Repent, my good man! And step into the land of no regrets. (…and BACK into rightful leadership) etc. etc. But if you’re sitting in a puddle of shame and you’ve already turned around from whatever path you were pursuing (or maybe you really couldn’t say that you had been walking in rebellion to begin with)… well then, what you’re feeling AIN’T godly sorrow! Could it be… shame? Yeah. It’s probably shame. (You can repent of buying into that too, and step into more salvation.)
WHAT IT DOES
What exactly does shame do to a man? Why would the enemy of God find it so useful that it has been the first word out of so many mouths when we ask you gents for your feelings on the topic of money? Let’s examine.
THE GOAL OF SHAME IS TO DISQUALIFY YOU FROM YOUR CALLING. Is it working?
2 Timothy 2:21
Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
“But Mark”, you say, “I REALLY feel like this shame is God telling me that he’s not pleased with me. When Jesus gets into my life, I can’t help but feel like a slimeball based on my past and/or present. Mmmmkay:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
More of Jesus doesn’t result in added shame. Just doesn’t. If you are welcoming Him into new corners of your life (like… let’s say… YOUR MONEY) then you’ll know you’re doing it right when you feel additional salvation (without regret). If you feel the shame piling up, then you’re welcoming something else in, or turning the light on something nasty that’s been sitting there a while. Take the cue that something is amiss. Switch directions, amigo.
1 John 4:1
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
“What’s that? An evil spirit could be masquerading as the voice of the Father and telling me I’m disqualified and unworthy?” Bingo. Test the spirits against the Word of God (provided here for your convenience). Throw away that which contradicts the things you find there. So simple. So reliable.
Lest you think that the shame game is new for our prowling adversary, I point you to the Psalms. Our hero David knew that shame was a real neuterer of men. He talked about it all the time when he spoke of the salvation that was on the way for God’s people:
Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.
To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
And Isaiah, whose prophecy repeatedly told Israel about the salvation that was to come, often spoke about the peeling away of shame when he described that salvation:
Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy.
“Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.
So salvation (which is, don’t forget, rescue, redemption, and good Fathering from our Deliverer) is a shame-free state. And repentance leads to salvation… with an added bonus of zero regrets. But those verses above start to talk about another concept: honor. Honor seems to be the opposite of shame – (“instead of dishonor they have rejoicing”, “you won’t be ashamed or disgraced”, etc).
- One whose worth brings respect or fame
- A good name or public esteem
So honor is the opposite of shame, and even the good folks at Merriam-Webster seem to be onto this truth, if you hold those two definitions next to each other. In closing, here’s a couple of tips from the scriptures on how to go from shame to honor:
2 Timothy 2:21
Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable (which you can do through repentance), he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.
Next episode we’ll explore a bit more into what honor means in the context of money and family, but for now you need to know that honor is what you’ve been set apart for. It’s your destiny, and you don’t just sit around and wait for it to happen.
Until then, ask God to show you where the cancer of shame is crouching around your finances and fathering. And where you see it, start getting it OUT with the radiation of repentance. Cleanse yourself of what is dishonorable, and become a man set apart for holiness and usefulness!