In God We Trust: Making God the Father of Our Finances
by Steve Wood
I was standing at the kitchen sink staring at my backyard agonizing over how the Family Life Center was going to survive financially. In the year after founding St. Joseph’s Covenant Keepers we experienced a 1200% growth rate, but only a 4% growth in donations. Our success was killing us financially. We only had a few days of operating funds. Since we did not even have the money to send a mailing to our supporters notifying them of our predicament, we would have to close our doors and I would be out of a job. While transfixed on these financial anxieties, I felt a little tug on my leg.
I looked down to see my two-year-old daughter, Susan, holding a cup and asking me for a drink of water before bedtime. Her eyes reflected a special childlike confidence in her father. There was not a hint of doubt or anxiety in her request. She simply trusted me to fulfill her need for a cup of water. As I handed Susan back her full cup I wondered why I could not trust God for my needs the same way Susan trusted me. Didn’t Jesus say that instead of financial anxieties we were to have confidence in our heavenly Father?
Knowing that we should trust the heavenly Father instead of having financial anxieties is one thing. Actually doing it in trying circumstances can be very difficult, especially for grown-ups like me with little faith!
While still at the sink it struck me that St. Joseph could be the missing link between a doubting anxiety-filled father and the heavenly Father. Certainly St. Joseph can relate to family financial anxieties. He was a man of modest means who received an angelic midnight job transfer. Overnight he had to leave his home and his business. St. Joseph faced the challenge of providing for his uprooted family in a foreign country with just a few of his carpenter’s tools.
St. Joseph is different from a buddy who can relate to our family financial difficulties; he can do something about it! James 5:16 says, “…The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” Matthew 1:19 calls Joseph, the “just man.” The two English terms “just man” and “righteous man” are two ways to translate a common Greek word. Therefore, St. Joseph is the righteous man with unique intercessory access to God himself. In the carpenter shop Jesus willingly responded to any request by St. Joseph. Do you think that Jesus responds any differently to a request that St. Joseph would make on our behalf today?
When both pagan and Jewish people needed “daily bread” during an excruciating famine they were told to “go to Joseph” (Genesis 41:55). God raised up the patriarch Joseph to provide for the needs of many in the midst of great want. The Church fathers recognized that the Old Testament patriarch Joseph foreshadowed St. Joseph in the New Testament. Contemporary fathers struggling with providing “daily bread” for their families need to “go to Joseph.” In St. Joseph they will find a powerful and sympathetic advocate.
I entrusted my family’s finances and the work of the Family Life Center in a renewed way to St. Joseph that evening. I asked him to bear and to present our needs to God. Within a week we were out of financial danger. Within a month we were back on our feet financially. Incredible! Through this experience and others like it since then, I have learned that St. Joseph is a saint that a father can rely upon when the chips are down. You don’t “go to Joseph” and come away disappointed.
God the Father gave Jesus a perfect earthly father to provide for his needs. It is because Jesus becomes our brother through the New Covenant (Hebrews 2:11-12), that Jesus’ Father is “Our Father in Heaven” and St. Joseph is our human covenant father. When we need an intercessor for “our daily bread” with the Heavenly Father, St. Joseph stands willing to help any father who asks for his assistance.
Financial anxiety has almost become a way of life for many modern families. Too often, many of these families facing financial anxieties sense little or no support from the Church. Listen to the anguish of a father from Stamford, Connecticut:
“As someone who was ‘restructured’ – that is, fired – from his job, I’ve completely lost interest in reading Catholic newspapers. I’m also finding it terribly difficult to go to Mass, since I don’t hear a word of understanding there for those of us living a financial nightmare. When I wrote Pope John Paul II about the sufferings of American children due to unemployment, the Holy Father acknowledged my letter and said he would pray for me and my family at Mass. He understood the sufferings many are going through. But the lack of understanding in Catholic newspapers and in the Catholic community as a whole is demoralizing. I get the sense that my sufferings aren’t worth noting or addressing.”
Families should respectfully request that prayers be offered during Mass, not only for the poor, but also for struggling middle-class families, businesses, workers, salesmen, and those needing jobs. After six years as a Catholic I cannot remember hearing a single prayer during Mass on behalf of the finances for middle class families. Someone like the father writing from Connecticut could easily get the impression that the Church is either unaware or uncaring about the enormous financial pressures faced by “average” families today.
A regular feature of Christian men’s groups should be mutual supporting prayer for family finances. Children should be encouraged to pray for the success of the family breadwinner(s). We should encourage devotion to St. Joseph as a way of relieving some of the financial stresses faced by families. We should share our answered prayers with congregations, small groups, and families as a way of encouraging others to discover through prayer that God is willing to be the Father of their family’s finances.
“Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:7-11