Your Bank Account shows What’s Important: An Excerpt From 100 Meditations by Michael Crawford

OUR bank accounts expose our values, so put your money where your mouth is! You have probably heard of something called a money trail. We use this term when we are describing a criminal investigation. If you follow the money, it usually takes you to the root. Our lives are no different. If we track our money as we spend it, it reveals what is important to us.

I once heard a true story that illustrates the point we are considering. A woman had made a monthly commitment to give a percentage of her money to her church, but one month she could not resist the sales. She bought clothing instead of giving to her church. At a small group meeting, she was asked how things were going in her life. Overwhelmed with conviction, she admitted that she had not been faithful in the area of giving and that she was wearing her offering for the month. I was impressed with the integrity of the young lady. She was being honest. I wonder how many of us are willing to be that honest about how we spend our money. How many of us are eager to log in to our online accounts and take a few minutes to read the statements and see where we are spending our money?

When we got married, my wife and I brought a lot of debt into our marriage. It was an unfortunate wedding present that we gave each other. We are trying to persuade our children to avoid giving their future spouses a similar present. One of the first things we did was look at where we were spending our money. What we saw was not pretty. We were spending a lot of money on extracurricular things that we could not afford. Our bank account told us loud and clear what we valued. After a few diligent years of sticking to a budget, we got ourselves out of debt.

A lot of us have bank accounts that have no monthly fees. Think of it: our bank accounts are free financial advisors. They tell you where you are spending your money. Take advantage of what your bank account is telling you and make necessary changes. When it comes to money, my temptation is often to bury my head in the sand and pretend that things are not as bad as they are. But my accounts are still there, telling me what I value.

Steven Spielberg made a movie about Oskar Schindler. He had put several Jews to work in his factory—and made a lot of money. As the war went on and he saw the atrocities of the Nazis, he began to use his position to ransom Jews for work in his factory. By doing this, he saved over 1,200 Jews from certain death in the concentration camps. At the end of the movie, there is a scene where Schindler is presented with a letter from the Jews he has saved. At this moment, Schindler suddenly becomes very sober and quietly says, “I could have done more!” He begins to sob. “I could have done more. I didn’t do enough. This car—why did I keep this car? Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten more people.” Pulling off his lapel pin, he exclaims, “The pin, two people. This is gold. Two more people. One more. I could have bought more people but I didn’t!” His knees buckle, and he sobs heavily.

I wish more of us were like Schindler learned to be and viewed our accounts as thermometers that told us whether our values were healthy or sick.