Interview with Paul Tripp: Why Budgets Are Insufficient to Resolve Our Money Problems
Dr. Paul Tripp fields a few questions about "Redeeming Money" from Dean Sweetman, the CEO of Tithe.ly.
May 23, 2018
All of us struggle with money in some shape, way, fashion, or form.
But the problems you'll have with money are not actually with money. The conflict you’ll face with money is within you (not the church budget).
God knows this about all of us, which is why he talks about money and stewardship in the Bible more than anything else. He wants to crush any sinful desire we have for money so that we’ll be wholly devoted to him.
Like a skillful surgeon, Dr. Tripp uses the scalpel of the gospel to cut open our hearts, untangle the grip of sin, and lead us to experience grace, redemption, and renewal in Christ.
I had the opportunity to send Dr. Tripp some questions about his new book, and I know you’ll hear an encouraging word from the LORD through him.
1. InRedeeming Money, you actually don’t start talking about money in the beginning. Instead, you talk about the way we view the world. Why did you decide to begin your book this way?
I have written about this before and will probably write about it again: no one is neutral in the way he or she thinks about life. No one is truly open-minded. Everyone carries with them a worldview that shapes their understanding of everything. Everyone is a philosopher; everyone is a theologian. All are meaning makers.
We never leave our lives alone. You just can’t understand anything in isolation. Everything in our lives is connected to everything else, and everything is shaped by what we understand to be true. Handling money right—being in control of it, not being controlled by it, and not asking it to do for you what it was never intended to do—requires examining the worldview that should shape how we think about money and everything else in our lives.
I want to help you look at money and money problems through the lens of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am deeply persuaded that we will never make proper sense of the world of money, which influences us, perhaps more deeply than we realize, unless we first put on our gospel glasses. If you and I don’t let the gospel of Jesus Christ correct our assumptions about life, we won’t be able to evaluate and gain ground in the way we understand and relate to money and make practical money decisions.
2. You wrote, “There is no better indicator of the identity you have assigned to yourself than the way you use money.” How do our money habits reveal what we believe about God and ourselves?
The answer is in the idea of identity. Why does one person proudly throw money around? Why does another person use her money to buy all the cultural markers of success? Why is that neighbor of yours so proudly vocal about his charity? Why has yet another person never been able to stay out of debt? Why does that couple quietly give away such a big portion of their income? Why is your friend so gripped with money fears? Why did Jesus talk about this topic more than any other? Why is money such a big deal?
In a fundamental way, the drama of identity often plays out in the arena of money. You and I again and again make clear who we think we are by the way we use our money. We have to think biblically about identity to be able to live rightly when it comes to money.
3. Many financial advisors insist on creating a budget to get out of debt, but you believe budgets are insufficient to resolve our debt problem. What led you to this conclusion?
There are many important things to understand about money, and a personal budget can be practically helpful, but it cannot be our starting point. That would be like teaching a little boy to throw a football but not helping him to understand the basic purpose, rules, and fundamentals of the game. You could have all kinds of money information and still be tragically mastered by it. You could have a clear sense of how to budget your funds and still not be thinking about and using money in the way God intended.
4. Money is arguably the leading cause of stress and anxiety in the United States. How does knowing we are a child of God through faith in Christ address our financial anxieties?
In Matthew 6:31–32 Jesus argues that because we are now the children of God, we don’t have to give way to the normal anxiety that most people feel over the question of whether their needs will be met. Because we now have a wise and loving heavenly Father, who owns everything and is in control of everything, we can rest assured that all of our needs will be met. This means we have been freed from the fear of want that causes us to focus all of our time, energy, and money on making sure all our needs are met.
5. Often, when we’re in a mess financially, we feel alone, defeated, and try to hide our situation from others and ourselves. What hope does the gospel provide someone in this situation?
It is not what you have done or are doing, but what God has done and is doing for you. Being a saint means you never carry your money burdens alone. It means that God is with you in every money struggle. Being a saint means you don’t have to deny responsibility, shift the blame, run and hide, or be paralyzed with guilt when you’ve made a money mess.
In your darkest moment of money foolishness, you can run into God’s presence assured of his forgiveness and help. Being a saint means God has opened your heart to his existence and your mind to his wisdom. You are now blessed with knowing that, at its very core, your life isn’t about your comfort, pleasure, and satisfaction, but about his glory.