“First of all, Mr. Phillips, let me make clear that I am not authorized to sell you anything… Blah… Blah… Blah… so before we wrap up, do you think you’d be interested in investing in silver and gold mining today?” I informed the young person on the phone that all the money I had to invest was wrapped up in my business, but thanks for the invitation, goodbye. It wasn’t quite the whole truth, but by and large, I have presumed for many years, that it was in my (and my family’s) best interest that the music store not go belly up, so yes, we’ve sacrificed here and there to keep it solvent. Consequently, there’s not much of a financial portfolio to boast about.
I’m not complaining, mind you. Once in awhile a wide-eyed kid will wander in, gaze at all the instruments scattered around, and say earnestly, “Wow! You must be rich!” Well, of course, I am rich, but not in the way their naive intellect understands. I figured out long ago that I was in the wrong line of work if I was expecting cash to flow like water into my bank account. Make no mistake, we’ve been blessed. We’ve never missed a meal (being too busy to eat doesn’t count), never had a car repossessed, never had to face bankruptcy, so we have much to be thankful for. But, by the distorted standard of this super-wealthy society in which we live, I’ve never had “money”. Hence, it’s fortuitous that I haven’t developed the same expectations, so I actually can be rich in spite of my disregard for that standard.
On numerous occasions over the years, folks have made the assumption that my goal in business is to achieve wealth. In my conversation with them, I always come back to a metaphor I’m sure I appropriated from someone else early in life. I believe firmly that money is nothing more or less than a tool, an implement for us to utilize in achieving our goals. The complete lunacy of making the goal simply acquiring money should be obvious, but for many it is not. If you’re a carpenter, you only need one hammer for the job you’re doing. True, there are different hammers for various tasks, tack hammers, framing hammers, ball pein hammers, sledge hammers, etc., and the tradesman would make sure that he had one good quality hammer for each task, but not more than that. No carpenter I know has a house full of hammers. I have known some tool-collectors who had a room full of tools, but they can’t use them. Ask that collector if you can borrow his antique claw-hammer to pull some bent nails and see if his room full of tools is of any use for your task.
Why do we honor the wealthy, the tool-collectors in our culture? The tools they hold onto so tightly could achieve unfathomable good if freed to work as they were intended. To be clear, I am not a socialist, not even an egalitarian. I abhor government-coerced equity in goods and wealth, but I love it when those who have previously held tightly to their tools open their hearts and hands and let the tools work as they were intended. It doesn’t happen often enough, but what a joy to see the miser become the benefactor. It evidently is a difficult and painful transition, so not many make the journey, but it does occur.
So, no huge nest-egg, no fat stock portfolio, not even a mattress full of cash. How then, could I possibly consider myself rich? Jesus told us that where we keep our treasure, that’s where our heart will be. My true wealth lies in my faith, my family and friends, and in my mission. Are you seeking true security? You won’t find it in the alarms and steel walls of the bank’s coffers, but the grace of God through Jesus is certified, fail-proof security. And, how can any man be poor who has a loving family and caring friends, with all the benefits and responsibilities that accompany them? And, if my mission is to love God completely, and love others as I do myself, I’m fairly sure that I will never lack for opportunities to fulfill that mission.
The days are teeming with the wealth of His gifts and my cup is full to overflowing. No hoarding hammers allowed!
“The rod of Moses became the rod of God!
And with the rod of God, strike the rocks and the waters will come.
Yes, with the rod of God, to part the waters of a sea;
And, with the rod of God, you will strike Pharaoh dead.
With the rod of God, you will set My people free.
And so what do you hold in your hands this day?
To what or to whom are you bound?
Are you willing to give it to God right now, right now?
Give it up, let it go, throw it down, down, throw it down.”
(from “Moses” by Ken Medema ~ Christian vocalist and songwriter)