Walking up to the self check-out kiosk at our local Kroger I scan my shopper card. The machine greets me as a “valued customer” and invites me to begin scanning my items.
I’m not thrilled to be shopping this late at night. I’d rather be at home winding down from the day. But realizing we were running low on the essentials and probably wouldn’t make it through the week, I dutifully headed to the store.
I reach into my cart and start swiping my items across the bar code reader one at a time. Milk (beep). Bread (beep). Eggs (beep). I’m eager to get back home. But after scanning my first few items, my eye is drawn to the cash dispenser that spits out change. Laying on the machine are two twenty-dollar bills.
As I reach down and grab them, I take a quick glance around the check out area to see if anyone is walking back toward the kiosk to claim them. As I look around I notice that not only is the check out area empty, except one clerk, almost the entire store is empty.
I put the two bills in my pocket and think to myself, “Perhaps this late night trip was worth it after all.” In that moment I made back the money I spent on groceries and then some. It was as though I was getting paid to do my own grocery shopping. #FTW!
But then as I resumed scanning and bagging my groceries a conversation began to ensue in my head.
Suddenly I start thinking about what if it was me who left the money behind? See, my wife and I had just started a new Dave Ramsey budgeting program and we had become hyper-focused on keeping track of every single dollar that we spent. And if one of us were to misplace even forty dollars it would have been incredibly discouraging.
As I’m swiping and bagging, this voice in my head begins to ask me a question, “So Bryan, whatta ya gonna do with the forty dollars?”
I reply, “Um… I’m gonna keep it.”
He says, “Bryan, you know how you would feel if it was you.”
So I respond saying, “Well of course. But what am I supposed to do? Go running through the parking lot and walk up to random strangers loading their car asking if they left their change behind? Besides, look around. There’s nobody here.”
The voice in my head responded, “You could.”
To which I said, “Don’t be stupid. Any person who has half a brain would say yes to that question even if they didn’t leave the money behind. I’m better off keeping it.”
I keep scanning and the voice goes silent. But he’s still there. Now it’s as though he’s just giving me a look, a look that a parent gives their child when the child knows better.
Frustrated I say, “Fine. What do you want me to do?”
He replies, “You could turn it into to the customer service desk.”
I just utter, “Ugh” in response.
This moment happened almost six years ago, but I still think about it to this day. In part, because about a week later almost the exact same thing happened again. And also, because God used the two relatively insignificant moments to teach me something about me.
In 1 Timothy Paul concludes his letter by saying, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (6v10)
Upon reflecting on this moment I came to realize that I was “eager for money” and the “love of money” had been lying dormant in my heart, and it was starting to surface.
Money is a wonderful thing and affords us also sorts of joys in life. It gives us the ability to go out to eat, see a concert, take a nice vacation. And when we work hard to earn a living there is nothing wrong with enjoying the fruit of your labor.
But there is a point when it crosses a line. A point when our attitude towards our money shifts from it being a gift and blessing from God to the source of our joy and emotional security. Next thing you know, your checking your bank account multiple times a day, incessantly watching the stock market to track how your investments are doing, and worrying about your net worth. Suddenly, money has become the ruling force in your life.
Tim Keller once said in a sermon,
“The Bible talks about money 20 to 30 times more than it talks about sex. Why? Because money’s spiritual power blinds us to itself. When people are committing adultery, they know they are doing it. But hardly anyone who loves money too much knows they do. People are always confessing sexual sin, but almost no one thinks, “I’m materialistic” or “I’m greedy.” But if A) the Bible continually warns us about the dangers of materialism, yet, B) almost no one thinks they are guilty of it, then C) it means a great number of people are blinded to (and by!) the power of money in their lives. The only responsible thing to do is go on the working hypothesis that we are infected by love of money and must be on the watch for it. If the love of money is this insidious and stupefying, it’s a lot like alcoholism. Maybe the best sign of materialism is this — you aren’t willing to even admit the possibility that you have a problem.”
That evening at the self check out kiosk at Kroger it turned out that the voice in my head was the Spirit of God seeking to pull back the curtain on my own heart. The love of money, and what it could bring in my life, was in the process of taking root in my heart. If I didn’t do something about it it was going to take over.
God was giving me a gracious nudge to do something about it. And how do you prevent money from being an all-encompassing ruler in your life? You let it go. You give it away. You put your self in a place where you have to trust God for your daily bread (Matt. 6:11).
So that night, before I left the store, I put that idea into practice. I took those two twenty-dollar bills to the customer service desk and walked back to my car longing to trust that God would provide what I need exactly when I need it.
Where and how have you seen money become the almighty ruler of your life?