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Archive for the ‘Finances’ Category

You know what I am great at avoiding and even better at screwing up?  Money matters.  Yes, I know…I just said the “m” word.  I recognize that this is nearly a swearword to many people, often inducing anger, depression, fits of panic, and even hives—sometimes simultaneously.  Though I can understand the desire to scream at the computer and flee from this post in arm-flailing terror, I’m asking you to give it a chance.  You see, I’ve had money on the mind for the past several weeks and I’m pretty sure God wants it that way.  I feel that He’s showing me that it’s completely impossible to have the intimate relationship He desires with us if we don’t pay more attention the contents of our bank accounts and coin purses.

“The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”  Church-goers or not, most people have heard this phrase.  It’s more than just a phrase, though.  It’s a Bible verse, 1 Timothy 6:10 to be exact.   So what does it mean?  Simply put, I think it means that loving money leads to all types of problems.  Not just small, pebble in your shoe type problems, either.  I’m talking about the heavy types of problems more akin to a boulder over your head suspended only by mint-waxed dental floss.  I don’t think it applies just to money either.  I think it applies to all material things.

Does that mean we shouldn’t desire financial stability or want nice things?  Is it corrupt to like vacations, fashion, home décor, or restaurants?  I don’t think so.  Maybe I’m looking at it with too child-like a perspective, but the verse says that “the love of money” is a root of all kinds of evil.  “Like” is very different from love.  Ask any person with a commitment phobia and they’ll confirm that someone saying “I like you” is quite different from a spoken “I love you.”  That being said, I think there can often be a fine line between the harmful love of material things and the more innocent like of them.

In this case, I think love refers to worship.  Worship is defined as reverent honor paid to or adoring reverence or regard for something.  To worship something—truly worship—is to put something in the highest possible position of love, honor, respect, adoration, and devotion.  There is only One who is meant to be in that position in our lives, and that is God Himself.  When He is our object of affection and worship, peace, love, strength, patience, joy, etc. flow in and through our lives.  When we put anything else in that place meant for God alone, chaos ensues.

Think of a beautiful antique grandfather clock.  A clockmaker put his heart into it and carefully positioned each cog, spring, and vital part.  When the original design is respected, it runs beautifully.  If you decide to replace the original metal parts with lesser materials like Styrofoam, temporary and cheap, the clock is unable to function as it was originally designed.  This haphazard replacement will result in brokenness and, if left unchanged, the complete destruction of the clock.  Unfortunately, I have a lot of experience in replacing timeless, pure Goodness in my life with cheap, easily accessible things.  Amazingly enough, God never ceases to pursue me and jump back into His rightful place the moment I turn to Him.

Okay, though this seems to be something I will always be working on, I’ve known all of this for a while.  So what new perspective have my mental mandibles been chewing on?  It’s a misconception actually, that I only recently realized I’ve held.

During a very recent period of financial hardship, my mind was spinning with numbers and red currency symbols causing serious stress.  To put it plainly, I was freaking out and was losing control of my thought life to this very specific worry.  Through this, God spoke to me and basically told me that I needed to let go of my love of money.  At first, it seemed ridiculous.  I had no money to love.  As I thought about it further, I realized the truth in his rebuke.

I think we, as lower, working, or middle-class folks, tend to look up the socioeconomic ladder when we think of materialism.  Materialistic people are those obsessed with big houses, fancy cars, extravagant boats, and $2000 pairs of cashmere socks.  Not us though, we’re just trying to get by.  We think about money and things in the sense of lack and need.  I often obsess about the same types of things, though my big house is a nice apartment and my lavish socks are a six pack of Hanes.  I have been viewing it as “being concerned with needs” and my bankroll’s inability to meet those needs.  I’ve been trying to justify it, but the truth is this: obsession is obsession.  This is what I mean by the “Empty Pocket Idol.”  It’s a dangerous form of materialism (or love of money) that involves being obsessed with the lack of money, not the presence of it.  I don’t need to have funds to spend in order to be evaluating whether or not my heart is in my pocketbook

Now, I would love to tell you five fantastic steps to loosing the holds of the “Empty Pocket Idol” or his equally terrible brother, the “Full Wallet Idol.”  Here’s the thing though…I am not an expert or motivational speaker.  I am a work in progress, especially regarding this subject.  However, by the pursuit of God, I have been shown a couple solutions that I’ve actually been able to experience as life-changing.

  1. Keep yourself full of what—or rather Who—it’s supposed to be full of.  The way to do this is to turn your attention from your worries and desires for things to God.  Even trying to focus on materialism for the sake of fixing it, ultimately leads to obsessing over it once again.  The only way to truly fix a spiritual problem, as this is, is to focus on the Solution, not the details of the problem itself.  “For where your treasure is, there your heart shall be also.”  Matthew 6:21  In other words, what you focus on and cherish, will always take over the center of your being including your mind, will, and emotions.  Also, unlike the love of money, loving God is not unrequited.
  2. Practice generosity.  I know that I can’t be free from materialism’s hold until I actual pry open my tightly-closed purse and literally let it go.  I believe this is true for everyone.  It’s an act of faith.  For instance, you can tell me that you trust the train, but your faith in the locomotive will never transition from theoretical to authentic until you actually take a ride.  Plus, giving is a cyclical blessing.  God promises that if we give, as in the case of tithing (giving 10% of your take-home pay to Him,) He will bless us in ways we could never imagine.  See Malachi 3:10…it’s literally God promising immeasurable blessing to those who tithe.  This doesn’t guarantee that you’ll win the lottery or the HGTV Dream Home, but God promises to bless the generous.

I’m sure there are other things we can do to keep materialism at bay and the related idols in the dirt where they belong.  I’m still discovering these though.  I am delighted, though, that the God who holds all wisdom seems to have taken such an interest in me (as He does with ALL people.)  He is beautifully patient as I stumble my way through this on my way to experiencing the full life of He desires for all His children.  How truly marvelous.

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