The Path to Bad Decisions
Photo by: Mini OzzY
Money is a little like love in the way that the pursuit of it can make otherwise shrewd people do some shockingly stupid things. We all know people (or maybe we are people) who are responsible citizens, competent business people, good parents, and yet manage to get involved in the most cockamamie moneymaking scams.
Lotteries, pyramid schemes, late night infomercial “Make millions in real estate with no money down!” flim-flams, and Nigerian email cons are just the half of it. People buy into can’t-miss stock tips from relatives who can’t even balance their own checkbook, or they invest in their friend’s goof ball business ideas (“People love fish; people love ice cream. So we sell fish-flavored ice cream! It can’t miss!”). We see this and think, “A fool and his money…” Except it doesn’t have anything to do with foolishness, and if we fail to realize that, we may find ourselves in the same predicament.
When you see a hapless grandma who’s just lost her pension check or a hard-working, blue-collar guy who’s blown his life savings, it may seem harsh to saddle them with some of the blame for their loss. But the hard truth is this: the characteristic that makes a person most susceptible to a con is not stupidity or gullibility, but greed. Smart people set themselves up for financial disaster when they start to believe they can get something for nothing.
Now, we’re all greedy to a degree, and not to sound too much like Gordon Gekko, but sometimes that’s okay. You can be greedy for the right things. If you’re greedy for more time with your kids or for a closer relationship with God, that might actually lead you to make better decisions. And a desire for more money doesn’t necessarily qualify as greed. Providing a better life for your family and getting yourself out of debt are noble goals. But there comes a point where a healthy desire to get ahead veers into oncoming traffic.
I’m not just talking about avoiding risk, either. We have to take risks to succeed at anything. No risk is a good one, though, if it’s not a calculated risk, one where we know the odds of failure and are willing to accept them. “Sure things” that promise big rewards for no risk are… well, they’re sure things alright, but not the kind that pay off in your favor.
When you’re trying to get your financial house in order, it can be hard to resist the temptation to scrape up extra money by any means necessary. It might even seem like a good idea, or an answered prayer– one big play that can solve all your problems. But when you’re presented with the chance for easy money, it’s important to remember that wealth is the result of effort, always. And there’s a reason for that: as in other aspects of our lives, God wants to use our finances to mold us into better people. Playing dice doesn’t build anybody’s character, but hard work and commitment do. If we opt out of our work, then we miss out on all the work He wants to do within us.