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Battling with Pennies

A penny will hide the biggest star in the universe if you hold it close enough to your eye – Samuel Grafton

It’s so true, isn’t it?  When money becomes too important to us, we begin to lose perspective on the bigger things in life.  That’s why Scripture is chock full of warnings over the dangers of money.  Of course money in itself isn’t bad, but there is nothing else in the world that has the power to corrupt humans like the lure of money.

A Noble Battle

I recently read In Freedom’s Cause, a Story of Wallace and Bruce, which outlined Scotland’s long battle for freedom from the English.  Their main challenge wasn’t the army of England, or the lack of weapons or skill, but rather their own nobles who kept selling out their own country in order to secure their lands and castles for themselves.  They would promise their support in battle and then repeatedly pull out at the last minute, leaving their countrymen hopelessly outnumbered.

It was heartbreaking to read, but sadly this story has repeated itself throughout history.  Countless Biblical stories remind us of people cheating, stealing and swindling others.  Today things seem even worse with companies and governments doing whatever is necessary to get ahead.  We act as if the almighty dollar is just that – all mighty – when we clearly ought to know better.

Our Own Battle

I’m oddly thankful for the large drops in the stock market (okay, I’m only partially thankful!) because they offer us the opportunity to examine where our treasure is.  They are a great barometer of how close we’re holding our pennies up to our eyeballs.  Even if you were one of those highly disciplined individuals who refused to look at your account balance at the worst of it all, you likely refrained because you knew how you’d feel if you looked.  It keeps us from panicking, but has it really done anything to remove the idolatry from our heart?

Please don’t hear any judgment from me in this.  I wrestle with it like everyone else, and this is precisely the reason that there are over 2,000 verses in the Bible dealing with money and possessions.  God knew that this world would try to compete for our heart’s affections.  He knew that so long as we lived on earth that the things of earth would lure us towards them.

I hope you do wrestle with it though.  Because my temptation now that the markets are at all-time highs again is (other than wondering why in the world the markets are at all-time highs!) is to breathe out a bit since my sense of security has been restored.  Not that I want us to live in a place of panic, but is my future really any more secure now than it was in March?  How much of my hope do I put in my net worth statement, versus God’s statements to me of my worth?   These are the true challenges of stewardship in an affluent society such as ours.

Winning the Battle

What’s the antidote to all of this?  I believe it’s by intentionally starting to hold our penny’s a little further away.  That means not trying to control them so tightly (yes, of course you can still use a budget ;)). It means giving more generously, one of the best way to loosen our grip on our money.  And it means praying regularly and asking God to show you any areas where you’re tempted to love money or this world more than Him.  There are great promises for us when we begin to do this.  God offers us freedom (by becoming his bondservants), abundant life (by dying to ourselves), and richer relationships (by loving others more than ourselves).

The Scottish nobles’ problem wasn’t that they were looking for the wrong things.  Their problem was that they were looking for them in the wrong places.  They were looking for things in this world that only God can truly offer us.  In doing so, we can win the battles that ultimately matter, and be assured of obtaining true riches.