Form and Function of Money

My husband Seth and I have noticeably different priorities when it comes to household items and their utility. Seth is a scientist with an engineering background. He likes it when objects have a designated function. I think it’s his love language. No frills.

Spartan is a word he has enthusiastically uses to describe his vehicle. He loathes new throw pillows. He barely noticed when I recovered the dining room chairs. There is a place for form in his world, but it’s a small place, reserved mainly for the guitars in his music room.

On the other hand, even though I know it’s important and necessary, function can sometimes be an afterthought for me. In my world, form naturally takes precedent. I’m usually drawn to something by how it looks and how it makes me feel rather than what it was designed to do.

When it comes to money though, thankfully our priorities have morphed and we’ve learned to work pretty well as a team. Even so, I’m aware that function versus form conversations about money are happening in households all over the world, and even among friends and peers.

That’s because people have dramatically different priorities regarding money and how it’s used. Some people think it should only be used to pay bills and save for retirement. Others think a good splurge is part of a well-rounded life. The truth is, money is multi-faceted. It can even be beautiful! Just like a jewel that catches the light and shines differently depending on how you turn it, each of money’s proper uses stand out depending on your perspective.

But God shines His own light on the subject. And just like that beautiful jewel, different angles appear and He gives us glimpses into His priorities when it comes to money. Here are just a few of the places where we see God’s heart concerning the utility of money:

Money can be used in worship (Deuteronomy 16:17). We bring Him gifts out of the blessings He has given us.

Money can be used in taking care of our household needs (1 Timothy 5:8). He provides us with an income, so we can support our families.

Money can be used in taking care of others (Deuteronomy 10:18). God’s protective nature extends to the poor, the orphan, the widow, and the foreigner just to name a few.

In one of the most famous stories in the Gospels, a woman broke open a container of extremely expensive perfume and poured it all over Jesus’s head and feet (Matthew 26 and John 12). His disciples could hardly believe what they had just seen! How could she possibly waste so much money in one place? She dumped everything out and there was no getting it back. Didn’t she know her money could have been used in much better ways?

She must not understand there were poor people who needed to eat. Money has a function, a purpose, a utility. And clearly she didn’t comprehend what that was. But when Jesus saw her priorities, He affirmed her and chastised them. He told her what she had done with her money was beautiful (Matthew 26:10 NIV). So much so that all over the world, people would continue to tell the story.

I think she actually understood the principles and priorities, the function and form, the beauty of money, way better than anyone in that room. Except of course, Jesus. On that particular day, she prepared her Lord’s body for His death, burial, and resurrection. THE event that would change the world! She worshipped Him in the right place at the right time with the right priorities — using her money. Jesus told them, it’s good to give to the poor, but they will always be around — He wouldn’t.

She listened to her heart and did the opposite of what the people around her would have done, but it was the godliest usage she could have chosen in that moment. They tried to call her out for bad behavior, but Jesus called her up for exalting Him. For the sake of worship, she spent a year’s salary on one solitary act of beautiful submission. They wanted her to focus on what they saw as the best function, but she was driven by form.

Just because we have always seen money, or anything else for that matter, being used in a certain way, doesn’t mean that’s the only way. We don’t have to live with the dressed down utility version of something just because that’s what we’re used to or because someone else says so. But at the same time, no frills function may be the absolute best call in your life for a season or a specific setting.

The main thing is to look at God’s heart for money (or anything else) before we arrange our own priorities. We listed a handful of references earlier, but there are hundreds more places where God spells out in His Word what He’d like to see done with money. God is also creative and He made us in His image, so He extends us plenty of artistic license as well.

Maybe you have a natural bent toward function or form like my husband and me. That’s fine, but be sure you look beyond it regularly. Take that multi-faceted jewel and turn it around a bit to make sure there’s not something you’re missing. Consider its beauty. Ask God to show you His perspective, then be bold and act on it.

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