Money - A Blessing or a Curse

At the age of 72, I have come to realize there is something about money that can either produce a blessing or bring pain and heartache to our lives. You hear people misquote the Bible by saying "money is the root of all evil" as if having money is a bad thing when what the Bible actually says is "the love of money is the root of all evil’. Regardless of how much money we have, in most people's minds, it is not enough.’

For years, my thought about money was that the amount you had was a gauge of your success in life. I have always considered myself as being a conservative person, not just wanting to pay more than I had to for anything; but now, as I look back, I can clearly see how much money I have wasted by allowing myself to be taken in by marketing techniques through the media or by faulty thinking that my life would be so much better if I bought this or that. I have bought more books than I will ever be able to read thinking they may help somehow to make my life better by reading them. I have also bought many CDs which I don't have time to listen to. As I am learning more about how we think as human beings and coming to realize what people want most out of life, I can see where the motivation for much of my spending was to either 1) enjoy life more or 2) think better of myself because my self esteem left me feeling inadequate.

Through the study of God's Word and the leading of His Holy Spirit, I now know who I am and have the confidence to willingly acknowledge my own mistakes in hopes of helping others. During my life I have purchased several new cars which I had to finance and I know that I thought by buying a new car, I would feel better about myself and that I would be thought more highly of by others; however, the truth of the matter was that others very possibly thought I was foolish for spending the extra money for a new car when I could have purchased a good used automobile for much less. Over the years, I have bought more new clothes than I ever needed to improve my appearance. Now, I can see that I just did not have a high enough self esteem and at the moment, thought new clothes would help. I was a Christian, but just didn't understand how valuable I was in God's eyes and that I didn't need new clothes for Him to love me more. If I needed different clothes, I now can see how anyone can get what they need free because of the circles I am traveling in now but before, I wouldn't even have considered buying clothes from a thrift store or getting them free from a clothing closet. Because of all the money being spent on new clothes, there are more than enough used clothes for everyone to have at little or no cost.

Then there are opportunities to spend money on having experiences which are just enjoyable or fun or to buy fancy coffee drinks, but I have gotten to the place in life where I can't enjoy doing something that is supposed to be entertaining when the cost is perhaps $50-$100 a seat and the event lasts about 2 hours and I know that my next door neighbor doesn't have gasoline money to get to work.

My wife and I like to watch Good Morning America and as I write this, the program has just spotlighted the Bates Family from Knoxville Tennessee. Mr. and Mrs. Bates have had 19 biological children and they all live together in the same house. Mr. Bates has a tree trimming business and his oldest son, 23 years of age, helps him. They live debt free without credit cards and their only entertainment, not only does not include something high priced, but they do not even have a TV; their entertainment comes from family activities as they interact with each other. As they were interviewed, it was evident how much they enjoy life and when asked how many would like to have another brother or sister, all the children raised their hands and said that they would with smiles on their faces and Mrs. Bates gave glory to God for the many blessings He has given to them.

So, if we don't spend our money on better cars or more clothes than we need, and we don't spend our money on trying to have a good time, how are we supposed to spend our money? We all have a certain amount of money to use somehow and the choices as to how we use it are many. What scriptures seem to teach us is that we need to be careful we don't "love it.” Do you think that this means that we are limited to just accumulating as much of it as we can and basing our security on how much we have? Or could it also mean loving what it can do for us in regard For example, when I was the Office Manager of a Recovery Center in town, I also served on the Board which controlled the policies of the Center. This was a mental health facility and a consumer would regularly sit at the front desk monitoring consumers as they came and went from the Center. The Receptionist was a nice lady who had a mental illness; one day she needed to leave her post to go to the rest room. When she returned, she found that someone had taken $45 from her purse. When I heard about it, because of her dedicated service to the Center, I thought she should be reimbursed. I brought the matter up at the Board meeting and the treasurer who was a millionaire himself took a firm stand that her loss was not the responsibility of the Center and she was not reimbursed. Later I had a chance to talk to the treasurer and he made this statement to me: "It's a strange thing what money does to a person".
As Office Manager in the Center, because of the love God has given me for people, when consumers would knock on my office door and want to borrow $5 until they received their benefit check at the first of the month, I wanted to loan them the money. The policy of the Center was not to loan money to anyone; so I devised a system that would permit me to make these small loans. I made tickets and entered on them the name of the borrower, what the money was for, when it would be repaid. The consumer signed the ticket with the understanding between the Center and I that, if anyone didn't repay their commitment, I would pay the Center for their debt. This is what amazed me: NOT ONE PERSON repaid their loan and I had to pay several hundred dollars to the Center. What is it about money that causes the owner of it to prize it so highly that they are willing to disregard the importance of their own integrity for what it can buy?

After retiring from a 40 year accounting career, I founded a ministry called "What is Truth Ministry" and one of the issues I believe we need to understand is the proper use of money. I keep telling ministry associates that "If we do this (conduct the affairs of the ministry) right, we won't have to worry about money" and I believe that because God promises to supply the needs of those who love Him and others. So this is the way we operate. We provide mentoring and transportation services to anyone who needs help and can't afford it. As needs arise, since we have no outside funding, we use our own money to buy gasoline to get individuals to work until they get paid or to move someone from one location to another with no money to rent a truck, etc. I am told by professionals in the "people helping" business, don't use your own money to help someone and as I see it, therein lies the problem. It appears there is not enough compassion in the world to be willing to love people more than money so the pain of those in need can be eased. No wonder the government needs to be involved. Now, some would say those in need are just takers, giving them an excuse not to get involved. Our ministry approach is to spend enough time with ‘those in need’ to better understand why they are where they find themselves in life. Thankfully, we are getting more experienced in reading people all the time. If somehow, we were all able to actually put ourselves in the place of the person in need, perhaps then we could realize how important it is to use our money well, not as a means of fulfilling our wants but as a "tool" to help ease the pain of others as God has done for us through Christ.

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