April 23, 1996
Expressing disgust at unnecessary federal expenditures, an American radio announcer suddenly blurted, “If I had a job that paid one million dollars every day from the time Christ was crucified until now, I still would not have enough to pay half our government’s deficit!”
With this protest fresh on our minds, we pulled into a roadside flea market in Florida. Cheap jewelry, old pocketbooks and assorted other non-necessities filled rows of tables. Patrons in shabby clothes pawed the merchandise. Some only looked. Others shelled out nickels and dimes, their expressions brightening as they pocketed their trinkets.
Most seemed too poor for even bargain-priced “luxury.” Perhaps buying second hand treasure made them feel wealthy. After all, the rich can hoard dispensable extras so why not imitate at least that part of their lifestyle?
Reflecting on government excesses and the spending habits of both rich and poor, it appears all three groups have some things in common. For example, all can spend money they do not have and all can waste money on “stuff” no one needs. The illusion that more money will fix everything is not limited to any class or group. Neither is that fleeting sense of well-being that comes and goes after making a major purchase. Besides all that, it matters not if a spender is rich, poor or a government committee, if you spend more that you earn, you go broke!
A fire burns beneath this urge to spend, buy and have. This fire motivates buying, selling, producing and profit-making all over the world. It is a passion for money; what one writer calls “the worship of economics.” Surely this love, not the romantic kind, makes the world go around.
The Bible does not say money itself is evil but that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Those who attach false value to dollars are always yearning for more. They become pre-occupied with it and plan their lives based on how much money is available or anticipated. Everything is measured by categories of cost, price or profit. Virtue is lost at the toss of a coin.
However, money makes a lousy lover. It gives a sense of security to those who have it, then flies away or becomes consumed. It leaves its lovers bankrupt, literally and emotionally. For all the attention lavished on it, the satisfaction money gives in return seldom lasts beyond a day or two. Soon the disillusioned return to the marketplace, hungry for more.
Money also leaves an indelible imprint on the soul, simply because people become the same as whatever they worship. Those who idolize the almighty dollar soon become empty, cold, impersonal and uncaring, just like the coins and bills stashed in their bonds, banks and mattresses.
Breaking away from this lover is difficult. The huge national debt in Canada and the United States and the likelihood of ever paying if off fails to convince many that their infatuation is foolish. What will happen to them if economic structures crumble? Where will they turn? Will they seek comfort in the hope of another upswing? Will they resort to crime and violence to satisfy the hole in their hearts? Or will they find something more reliable to worship?
The promise wealth makes is false. Solomon had vast riches, yet called it “vanity and futility.” Instead, he and others have discovered that only the promises of God are certain. God says, “I will never leave you or forsake you... I will meet all your needs... I have loved you with an everlasting love.” The Lord promises (and delivers) joy and indescribable contentment.
As the economic idol topples, will those who worship money have the fortitude to turn to Him? Or will they greedily cling to their god and their hoarded resources — and crash along with them? In either case, God is waiting with open arms and with promises that last for eternity.