Tuesday, March 22, 2011

For Heaven's Sake

"But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:20-21

Somebody just informed me that 95% of Americans are in debt, living paycheck-to-paycheck. In fact, Americans are 660 billion in credit card debt.

I was shocked, but not surprised.

So many times I've bitten my tongue when friends tell me how they are struggling to pay bills, build a nest egg or payoff credit cards, yet in the next breath brag about flying First Class to some exotic location, planting $300 rose bushes or purchasing a $500 crib. (For that price I hope it comes with a guarantee to change the baby's diaper!) My mom just stuck me in a drawer when I was born and I never complained. (Well, maybe not an actual drawer, but you get my drift.)

I paid $20 for my son's crib.

I grew up in a 5,500 square foot home on the beach in coveted La Jolla, California. My room had an ocean view and the Pacific lulled me to sleep each night. We had a live-in maid in a separate apartment who folded my clothes, made my bed and occasionally babysat while both my parents worked full time. Yes, it was a beautiful home. But they both worked hard to purchase it and they could afford it. They were never in debt. Their bills were paid on time. I never saw them argue over money and I grew up feeling financially secure.

I don't own a mansion. I don't drive a Cadillac, travel First Class or drink Dom PĂ©rignon. A few steps into my home and you'd certainly realize I don't have a maid.

But I'm happy and I still feel financially secure.

Yes, I would prefer a little more square footage. Sure I wouldn't mind an ocean view. And, yes, I would LOVE a live-in maid!

But I am content with or without these things.

We're debt-free, tithe regularly and are not living paycheck-to-paycheck. The peace I feel is priceless.

We own our stuff; our stuff does not own us.

If you are in debt, living paycheck-to-paycheck, I'm not trying to act superior!

I'm not saying I've never racked up credit card debt or don't know how it feels to live paycheck-to-paycheck. Yes, I have been irresponsible at times with money, but I never went on binge shopping sprees, bought name brands or got my nails done every few weeks if I didn't have the dough. (And, God forbid, I ever raided my son's piggy bank to pay the electric bill!) School loans, medical expenses, mortgages, etc., are all reasonable debts. I'm talking about irresponsibility and immaturity; spending money we don't have.

When I was single living in affluent San Diego, California, I used to have to move almost every six months when my single roommates announced their engagements. After I kept 'marrying off' my roommates one-by-one, I wised up. I finally decided to move in with a 70-year-old widow. Guess what? Within six months she was engaged! Yep. Time to move again. (I should have started my own business: "Move in with me, pay my rent and I guarantee you'll receive a marriage proposal within six months or your money back!")

Every new apartment lease required two months' rent. Sometimes my car broke down. Sometimes I lost my job. Sometimes I had emergency medical bills. Given these circumstances, I eventually had to borrow on my credit card, since I was living paycheck-to-paycheck. Subsequently, I ended up thousands in debt. Then I devised a plan to pay it all off. I canceled Cable, I made my lunches for work, I didn't take vacations, etc. I sacrificed. As a result, I was debt-free when I got engaged and had thousands in savings.

I recently learned that an old friend of mine got divorced. They were $15,000 in debt while engaged. They borrowed an additional $15,000 for their wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony, complete with soaring doves, but they started their marriage on bad footing.

They limped to their Hawaiian honeymoon $30,000 in debt!

One of the number one causes of marital discord is arguments over money. I know they had many financial arguments, so I wasn't that shocked or surprised they divorced a few years after tying the knot. I just felt very sad.

I paid for my wedding myself and didn't owe a dime afterward. No, I may not have released doves, worn a silk gown or had Celine Dion serenade us. But it was beautiful nonetheless and I skipped to my honeymoon suite debt-free.

I've been skipping ever since.

Can you imagine living without air conditioning, running water, a TV, microwave, computer, washing machine, electricity, cell phone, indoor potty? My parents did. You may feel these are necessities, but they aren't. We live in a self-indulgent society where we act like spoiled children; we feel entitled to have more, more, more.

We must ask ourselves: When will enough be enough?

What on earth are we doing for heaven's sake?

God never promised us a rose garden. He promised to meet our needs and never leave us or forsake us.

Last Sunday's sermon was all about contentment. "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rick fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pieced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:6-10.

I'm not saying it's evil to be wealthy, just like I'm not saying deprivation is more spiritual. It's all about perspective, attitude and balance. A millionaire can have a philanthropic heart and make monetary contributions that benefit many people and worthy causes. On the other hand, Mother Teresa lived a humble life serving the poorest of the poor. Both types of individuals can be used Spiritually toward advancing God's Kingdom.

It's all about our heart's attitude.

It's about discerning our wants from our needs. It's about being grateful for the simple things most of the world lives without: a roof overhead, clothes in the closet and food on our tables.

I read this recently: If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep...you are richer than 75% of this world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish somewhere ... you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy.

Ask yourself: Am I more concerned with laying up treasures on earth or in heaven?

"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." John 14:2

I bet God's mansions' will outshine the Ritz' anyday!

My pastor's sermon included: "If contentment is found just around the corner, you'll never reach it. We are restless, always looking to the next dream purchase, special event or exciting trip to make us feel good. The new smell vanishes quickly. The scratches, dents and worn spots come. The next version out makes us wish we had waited a bit longer because now our new purchase seems so archaic. Why can't we be content? We can! Only in Jesus will we find true contentment."

Compare yourself to Christ, not the Jones'. He's the only one who truly satisfies.

Let me conclude by saying: there is only ONE area in our lives we should NEVER be content:

Our walk with Jesus.


"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." Phil. 4:12

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Matthew 6:28-29

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