Bullying has been around since the Old Testament, but it’s only been in the past few years that it’s been getting serious media attention. As a counselor, I’m glad that people have begun to recognize how traumatizing bullying can be to victims. Children living in fear cannot thrive. They can struggle to learn, laugh or engage freely with their peers.

Bullies dominate using fear tactics and shaming. They rely on the fear of the unknown to keep their victims subdued, often even when they’re not around to torment them. Because of this, one of the best ways to aid a victim of bullying is to help the victim formulate a plan. A good plan can be an antidote to the fear of the “What if…?” that victims face.

I’ve been thinking that money can be a very domineering bully. I have known people who are so afraid of going without that they stock up on dented canned goods. They hoard and scrimp and worry incessantly. Many of us have probably seen this most obviously in the generation that survived the Great Depression as children. It’s as if the trauma of going without imprinted itself on them so profoundly that they are always one step from succumbing to this fear. Another example of money —or the lack of it — creating fear is when the money bully uses comparison to shame people into buying more and more. Once the money bully has them deeply in debt, it uses shame and fear to keep them struggling.

Where did I get the idea that money can be like a bully? In the Gospels, we read that Jesus taught:

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
— Matthew 6:24

Money in and of itself is not bad. It can serve very good purposes. All blessings come from God, and money can be a true blessing. But isn’t it just like us, the broken people that we are, to take God’s blessings and elevate them into idols? When we do that, those very idols always eventually ensnare us. We were created to place only one God on a pedestal. Any other thing we put there will rule over us, will master us. And money can be a punitive master.

A great way to remove money from its position of authority in our lives is to create an intentional plan for stewarding it well. For Christians, this plan must submit itself to God first. By deciding in advance that God will be the only master of our hearts, minds and resources, we dethrone money from the pedestal and take back the power that the money bully has tried to steal. We can overcome the shame of poor financial choices and the fear of the “What if…?” by practicing our God-honoring plan over and over again. Then when a crisis strikes, when we’re faced with temptation or in-the-moment decisions that must be made, we find peace in already knowing what we’re going to do. All we have to do is carry out the God-honoring plan we have prayerfully made. In the face of such peace, bullies lose their power.

If you have not yet created an intentional plan for stewarding your finances in a way that honors God, you can begin today by praying. Recognize that all you have on this earth came from him. Then humble yourself and ask him what percentage of each paycheck he wants you to devote to giving back, and where he wants these funds to go. Once you have a plan in place, ask God for the strength to begin carrying it out over and over. Practice intentional trust in him through obedience and watch peaceful freedom overcome the money bully!