Lately I have been thinking a lot about money, probably too much. I suspect this preoccupation has been triggered by the large pay cut I am about to get as we transition to becoming missionaries.
It has come to my attention that money is very important to people (that’s right captain obvious). However, it is not the money itself that I think reveals so much about us as people, but rather what we do with that money, why it gives us so much satisfaction, and why we spend so much energy laboring for it, and then worrying about it once we get it.
Tim Keller once asked the following question: Five people are sitting around a table drinking wine. How do you tell which one is the alcoholic? The answer is, it is not the one who drinks the most wine. No, you take the wine away from them and see which one starts to melt down. Which one becomes angry and agitated? That is the alcoholic.
It is the same with money. I think most of us have come to believe the lie that money will make us happy. For some of us, it is what we can buy with that money. For some of us, it is the security (or rather, the false security) that money gives us. For some of us, it is the feeling of superiority that having a larger bank account than our neighbor, gives us. But if you want to find out what someone’s heart is truly set upon, take that money away … and watch them squirm.
We saw this most tragically when the stock market crashed in 2008. One study in the British Medical Journal suggested that the money lost in this crash resulted in approximately 5,000 suicides. I suspect the emotional impact on many families was much more wide spread. There is a monster living inside us. Most of us do not even know that he is there. But he is there, and he is eating away at our souls.
You might think that since I am giving up the “American anesthesiologist lifestyle” and the salary that accompanies it, I am immune from this idolatry. I am not. I have spent far too much time “counting the cost” of what we are going to do. Now, I know, with my head, that more money will not give us satisfaction in this life. I know this in my head, but yet the monster inside me continues to wage war in my heart.
It has been said that Jesus talked more about money than about heaven and hell combined. He did this not because money was so important to Him, but because He understood the destructive effect it has upon us (even 2000 years ago). And He talked about it because He loves us, and He wants us to let go of this clenched grip that we have on money before it destroys us completely. God Himself gave up the riches of heaven, and entered into the poverty and filth of life among us, so that by His substitutionary atonement for our sins, we might be made rich, forever. It is my hope in this alone which will ultimately defeat the monster.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty you might become rich. - 2 Corinthians 8:9