I read Linda Dillow’s chapter in “Calm My Anxious Heart” on greed several weeks ago and have been mulling it over in my mind ever since. Several things stood out to me:
- Everything I have belongs to God. (More on this below.)
- The main issue is the condition of my heart. Am I content or always wanting more? (See Matthew 6:19-21–where is your treasure?).
- No one can serve two masters–whom do I serve? Am I so busy taking care of my stuff that I don’t have time to serve God and His church?
- Possessions are to be used for God’s kingdom, not gripped tightly or adored. What am I holding on to too tightly? Or what daydreams about possessions consume my day? How can I better use what God has given me to serve Him?
- “God can rid your heart of greed, but it is your responsibility to remove yourself from situations that promote greediness . . . stand in your house and look around. Where does greed have hold of you?” (p. 97) For me, this means throwing out catalogs as soon as I walk in from the mailbox (when does looking through the Pottery Barn catalog ever lead to feelings of contentment?!?), limiting the time I spend browsing through the mall, and being careful about spending time with people who cause me to be tempted in this area.
- “Listen to your heart. Listen to your words. Look at your actions. Are you teaching your children to be grateful for God’s blessings?” (Sorry, don’t have the page number for this, and my book is currently in Europe. I wish I was with it.)
The most striking thing for me in this chapter was when she talked about everything we have belonging to God, and therefore, the question is not “how much will I give?” but “how much should I keep?” If I adopt this “How much should I keep?” attitude, it radically transforms how I view my finances. Back when we were barely making it financially, prioritizing our spending was easy–pay taxes, 10% to God, keep the rest to pay our bills, thank you very much. But now that there is more than what we need for the bare necessities of food, clothes and shelter, things seem so much more complicated.
What does God want me to keep His money for, and what does He want me to do without so I can keep less and give more? Does He want me to keep enough for a new car or an old one? Does He want me to keep His money so my kids can have clothes from children’s boutiques or Target? Does God want me to use some of His money for an XM radio subscription so I can listen to commercial-free 80’s music? (I had totally rationalized the relatively small XM radio expense until I thought about it this way.)
Now that I think about it, it isn’t complicated. I just don’t like the answer. It seems clear to me that God wants me to use some of His money to provide what our family needs, to create special memories with our kids, and for Noel and I having time alone together to strengthen our marriage. I hope God doesn’t mind my spending His money on the safest minivan money can buy (but He probably doesn’t need the sunroof), and I hope that someday He’ll let me keep enough to pay someone to clean my house (if I use the time to glorify Him by serving others and/or educating my kids).
But God probably doesn’t want me wasting His money on things that only glorify me, and that is where most of it goes. He isn’t concerned with what others think of my home decor, my purse, my clothes or my shoes. He doesn’t care if my kids have real crocs or generic ones. (I’m embarrassed to admit that I do care and went to great lengths to buy generics that look the most like the real ones. Kid shoes!! What am I thinking?!?) He’d probably like for me to realize how much eating out is an idol for me and how I shouldn’t be so lazy that I spend His money on Chick-Fil-A anytime I don’t feel like making a sandwich.
A disclaimer in case you’re still reading . . . I don’t think there is anything inherently sinful about children’s boutiques, crocs, new cars (in the interest of full disclosure, I drive a 2008 Odyssey with sunroof), Chick-Fil-A, or XM radio. It’s just that greed is an area in which the Holy Spirit is relentlessly working on me, and He is convicting me about several areas in which I am wasteful with God’s money. If you are seeking God’s wisdom pertaining to your finances, and He provides the money for you to have an XM radio subscription, you will not receive judgment from me . . . and enjoy singing along to some Chicago for me, will you?