The weather is getting warmer and when that happens so do many other activities. I even found myself thinking the other day about getting my golf clubs out to clean them up and get ready for the nicer weather. But before I get to the clubs, I have – er, excuse me, my bride has – discovered several other chores that need to be done. You know, all the spring cleaning types of chores that just don’t go away if you ignore them long enough.
I could list them, but well, that is just not a pleasant thought right now. Probably though, the one of the chores that just will not go away is indeed the highest priority: taxes. And every time I work on these things I get upset with myself for not doing more all year long to make the task now much easier, and with the government for wanting so much of my money. It is extremely difficult not to be greedy about the money we earn and hope to take home, isn’t it? And would it not be great to win the lottery?
The Chicago Tribune some years ago ran the story of Buddy Post, “living proof that money can’t buy happiness.” In 1988, he won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania Lottery. But in the years after that, he ran into some pretty bad luck. Since claiming his winnings, he was convicted of assault, his sixth wife left him, his brother was convicted of trying to kill him, and his landlady successfully sued him for one-third of the jackpot.
“Money didn’t change me,” insists Post, a 58-year-old former carnival worker and cook. “It changed people around me that I knew, that I thought cared a little bit about me. But they only cared about the money.”
Post is trying to auction off 17 future payments, valued at nearly $5 million, in order to pay off taxes, legal fees, and a number of failed business ventures. He plans to spend his life as an ex-winner pursuing lawsuits he has filed against police, judges, and lawyers, who he says conspired to take his money. “I’m just going to stay at home and mind my p’s and q’s,” he said. “Money draws flies.”
It sure does, doesn’t it? And it also makes us paranoid about everything and everyone.
A certain man came into a very large sum of money. But he didn’t trust any bank with his money. Instead, he kept it all at home.
Everything went quite well with this arrangement until one day when he heard about a robbery that had occurred in his neighborhood. He became anxious about all his money being there, so the next morning he hid all the money in a very special hiding place. That made him a few minutes late for work. The second morning, he decided to use a different hiding place, because he was sure that someone may have seen him hide the money yesterday. That made him about half an hour late for work. The third morning, he decided to divide the money into three equal parts. It took quite an effort to find three good hiding places for his money, but he was successful at this. It made him two hours late for work.
This pattern continued for quite some time. He was missing more and more work. He even stopped going out in the evenings and on weekends.
The man’s friends became really concerned about him. So one Saturday they invited him to go with them out on a picnic. He decided that he would go with them just this once. He went and had a great time. It had been what seemed like an eternity since he had really been out to enjoy the crisp air, the sunshine, and the autumn leaves. And he had forgotten what a delight it was to be with his friends. He had a wonderful afternoon.
But when he returned home he immediately went to his three hiding places to check on his money. He went to the first one and it was empty. He rushed to the second one and it, too, was empty. With a great sense of anxiety and anticipation he opened the third hiding place. In it there was no money, but there in its place was this note: You have hidden much more than your money. You’ve been robbed, but not by thieves. For you have loved that which could not love you back, And yourself, not your Lord, you have pleased. Signed, The Safecracker (Donald Rumford, SoulShaping, p.388).
For every verse in the Bible that tells us the benefits of wealth, there are 10 that tell us the danger of wealth. But each one offers a solution to the problem of having too much money. For example, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
Money is one of the most spiritual substances in the world. Money either moves us closer toward or farther away from a deeper knowledge and relationship with God. As you work on those spring chores over the next few weeks, and the time for taxes comes up – it’s next week, folks – it’s a great time to ask yourself where your treasure really is? Is it in the money? Or are you trusting the Lord for your provision? God will always provide – if you will only trust Him.
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette. He also serves as pastor of Port William UMC.