I’ve been thinking a lot about money lately. Mostly how I’m a dirty, rotten spender. I have tremendous guilt surrounding the mismanagement of funds that I blame solely on growing up in a church focused on a lot of rules.
All right, I don’t just blame my childhood church. I blame my husband too. If he weren’t such a penny pincher, maybe I wouldn’t want to go out and spend all of our pennies. Has anyone ever considered that?
I wish I had some sort of normal relationship to money, but the truth is I don’t. I struggle with a shopping addiction. Always have. All the way back to the five-year-old me who went out with Ma to spend our every last dime on Butterfingers. If the day ends in “y,” it’s a great day to shop in my book. On my phone? No problem! On my computer? Credit card info saved! At a gas station? Show me the Swiss Cake Rolls!
It’s too easy to spend in this technology age, meaning my accountability has to work twice as hard than it did six years ago when I spent half as much. My temptations to spend have only grown bigger with each new technological toy. I have 11,258 advertisements each week, calling out. They beg me to come be a happier, more beautiful person. It’s exhausting trying to remember – let alone live by – what Jesus says about all this when his message is so thoroughly drowned out by even the teeny-tiny ads scrolling across my iPhone screen: “The amazing engineering of the all-new Lexus!”
As I’ve struggled for holiness in the money department, I have often turned to Scripture to help me identify the lies spinning in my brain: i.e. “You DO need a new pair of black shoes! C’mon, you only have black pumps, flats, thongs, sandals, flip-flops, heels, stiletto’s, wedges, flat boots & heel boots! Why shouldn’t you have black Mary Janes as well? You’re practically robbing yourself!” The voice in my head – while maddening – is shockingly effective. (And yes, sadly, I have all those types of black shoes, sans the Mary Janes. Sigh…).
The latest passage to realign my relationship with money comes from Luke 16:1-13, where Jesus tells us to be shrewd with our money by using it as a tool for his benefit to grow the Kingdom of God on earth. Even the ungodly use their money shrewdly for their own benefit, he argues. Why shouldn’t we then make our money work, not for us, but for God? If I honestly ask myself if the Kingdom of God needs another pair of black Mary Janes, my answer is, not for me at least. But who could use a pair of shoes? Who could use just one single pair of shoes as opposed to my too-embarrassed-to-tell-you-how-many-pairs-of-shoes-I-actually-own?
What are the black Mary Janes of your world? Does the acquisition of it prevent you from shrewd giving and saving? Don’t be afraid to admit your failures in this department. I have. I have even recently, miserably, and flamboyantly failed to be shrewd with the wealth God has given us. I cannot throw in the towel though! Jesus’ words remind me to fight materialism while inviting me to serve God and his purposes. Serving the god of spending – who is never satisfied with anything I do and always wants more – is clearly not what Jesus is asking of me. Or you.
Let Jesus’ final words of this passage convict us to be much more thoughtful as we approach the wealth he has given us: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Luke 16:13). Let’s make a GIANT effort to put God’s Kingdom-needs before the brick and mortar costs of building our own kingdom.
Every month my husband & I budget to give as well as budget giving to the needs of others as they come up. I never regret that money spent. I may be a dirty, rotten spender – albeit forgiven – but I will never give up battling the desire to spend so that we can continue to give lavishly to those with actual needs. May you go and do likewise.
What are the things you’ve allowed yourself to believe that you simply can’t live without? What other lies need to be addressed with what Jesus says in Luke 16:1-13?
Grace Biskie is InterVarsity’s Regional Coordinator for the Great Lakes East area and blogs at www.gabbingwithgrace.com.