“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…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.” Matthew 6: 19-24
This week I have been wrestling with this verse. For most of the last four years we have been trying to get out of the pit we dug for ourselves. Yesterday I sat watching Dave Ramsey videos with all three of my kids. I found myself wondering, “Why did we let our debt get so far out of hand? Why did we listen to all the poor advice we were given? Why did we buy a house instead of renting? Why did we spend so much money on four and a half degrees we are not using? Why did I choose to go to college out-of-state? Why did I use my income to see the world instead of paying off my debts? Why did we both take on a substantial car payment as soon as we got a full-time job instead of paying off our debt first? How could we have been so stupid?”
As a child I was always a saver, so when we faced financial crisis during the winter of 2010, I went back to doing the thing I knew best. But in the process, money became my idol. We had left two full-time jobs in Maryland to serve in China, and do youth ministry in Minnesota. And what did we get for doing God’s will for three years? Deficit, debt, unemployment, dependence, embarrassment, criticism, humiliation, judgement, and shame. In utter defeat we ran home to our parents and our old jobs, and I stopped writing about God anymore. I felt like I had trusted God, and He’d let me down for the second time in my life. I was not happy about it.
So I chose a new direction, and new role models. We started paying off our debts. I started a blog. And all the while I pursued debt-freedom with a singlemindedness of purpose. I gradually learned to trust God again, and see His work in my life. One year after we were laid off, we were hired for another position in full-time youth ministry. However, this last month in prayer for our high school students has reminded me that I cannot serve both God and money. In loving money, I hated the One who gave it to me. I loved the gift instead of the Giver. I forgot that “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). I don’t plan on forgetting all I’ve learned about money management over these last few years, but I do hope that from here on I’ll be able to get my priorities in the right order. I want to be certain that I am serving God, and my money is serving me, not the other way around.