I have always called it financial prudence. Fiscal frugality. But in reality it is pride and selfishness.
I have been helping a young woman in a third world country with her education. It makes me feel good to be assisting. Very Christian of me. Self-sacrificing. But it really isn’t. Because it hasn’t cost that much, at least not in American dollars, and a friend is helping me with that cost.
However, there was a slight misunderstanding. We all thought that there would be only one investment, but it turns out that that initial investment was only the beginning. What none of us knew was there would be two to three more years of registration dues, exam fees, and administrative costs. Suddenly, that feel good Christian “sacrifice” that was only a slight withdrawal from one of my accounts now had a bit more bite to it, and I have found myself logging into my bank and checking those accounts a lot more frequently.
Then came the text. Let it be known that I initiated this last conversation asking how classes were going. What I received were pictures of her in the hospital receiving treatments for a blood pressure issue. I waited, knowing what was coming next . . . a request for financial assistance. Third world countries are not known for their health coverage, you know.
My thoughts and posture? Heels dug in. My answer would be no. I had already spent a lot of money. Many times over the initial agreement. I had things I “needed” that money for. I had things I “needed” to do around the house. I had plans for that money. And I didn’t want my funds to drop too low. Plus, she had other people she could contact.
But then the conviction came . . . and the reminder . . . that even over these last two years I have never been short of money, and often, despite my “meticulous” bookkeeping, I often find more money in my checking account than I think I should have. Despite multiple reviews of my addition and subtraction, I have no idea where the error is. My savings seems to be stable as well, and I really haven’t put on hold anything I have wanted or needed to do.
Suddenly two things became apparent. First, that I believed my security came from my own “chariots and horses” ––what I managed to hold on to financially. And second, that I had been attributing the balance in my bank accounts to be the direct result of my own abilities and resources. I was David taking a census of my financial army in order to take pride in what really wasn’t mine (2 Samuel 24:1; I Chronicles 21:1).
And this money really wasn’t mine. God had given me wonderful parents who had paid for my upbringing and education. He had provided me with good teaching positions and beneficial career moves at just the right times. He had given me an unexpected and hefty raise my final year of work, which allowed me a more comfortable retirement, and He has seen that I never lacked food on the table or a roof over my head, or for that matter, anything I truly needed and often wanted. God has been very capable of handling “my” money.
An even worse part of this whole situation was the revelation that my faith, trust, and the extent of my Christian love were only skin deep. They hadn’t come close to penetrating the heart. Easy to be sacrificial when there really isn’t much sacrifice involved.
And the worst part of this whole situation? She never asked for help. I went down this winding road for absolutely no reason. Wait . . . now that I think about it, God took me down this winding road for a very specific reason—to take a hard look at not the state of my finances but the state of my heart. And that has definitely been running a deficit.