I’ll be honest with you — I never thought I’d marry a man whose dream was to do manual labor as a ministry. I saw a lot of truth in that Freudian concept that girls marry someone like their father, in which case I’d marry an engineer and live comfortably, never worrying about finances or being provided for. But after one date with Brenin, I was fairly certain he would be my husband. And after a few weeks, I loved him enough to lay down my desires for a wealthy lifestyle. I had accepted my fate: if we were going to get married, we were also going to be poor.
“Poor” is a relative term, of course. I joke about the fact that we’re poor because, compared to the way I lived when I was single, we live on a strict budget and say “no” to a lot of the luxuries I was accustomed to before marriage. I am well aware, though, that we are still among the wealthiest in the world because we have a home and clothes on our back and money in the bank.
The transition from spending “my” money frivolously to being a disciplined steward of God’s money has been a painful one at times. On my best days, being poor has taught me to be more thankful, creative, and faithful. On my worst, it’s produced in me envy, greed, fear and selfishness.
It’s pretty funny, actually. I will admit to naively thinking that if I was going to be poor, I wouldn’t ever struggle with greed because how can you be greedy when you don’t have any money? How could I go and sell my possessions to the poor like Jesus said if I already am the poor? I figured that rich people would be at a much higher risk of greed and deciding between serving God or money. Imagine my surprise then, when after months of living on the strictest budget I’d ever had, I asked God, “what do I need to surrender to you?” and He answered, “your love of money.”
Hah, good one, God! I thought. Try again when I actually have some money to love.
But here’s the thing: the amount of our wealth is not directly correlated to our love of money. I confess that I can be more greedy than plenty of rich people I know. Poor people aren’t holier than the rich, and rich people aren’t all spending their money on selfish means. When Jesus tells that rich, smart man to go and sell his possessions, He’s not saying you have to be poor to be a good Christian. He’s saying you have to stop loving all your stuff so much! He’s asking if we’d be willing to follow Him even without all the material gifts He gives us–whether we have little or much.
He’s asking if we’re brave enough to be thankful for what we have and generous enough to not hold it too tightly, because anyone can be controlled by the love of money, whether they have any or not.
I love to talk about money because it seems that enough people aren’t talking about it–especially in the Church. If you ask me, I will openly tell you our combined salary and the intricacies of our budget, even if I just met you. I wonder if talking more about such a taboo topic will help cure our instincts to judge one another. I wonder if it will set us free from the pressure to fall into debt, to live outside our means in order to keep up with the Joneses.
I do not hate money, and I’m trying not to love it, either.I’m trying to learn that the money I have is God’s, not mine, and it’s to be used as a resource for His Kingdom. Whether I have much or little, my prayer is that I’ll be faithful.
If you’re honest in small things,
you’ll be honest in big things;
If you’re a crook in small things,
you’ll be a crook in big things.
If you’re not honest in small jobs,
who will put you in charge of the store?
No worker can serve two bosses:
He’ll either hate the first and love the second
Or adore the first and despise the second.
You can’t serve both God and the Bank.
Luke 16:10-13 (The Message)