Who steals my purse steals trash.
The high school kid smiled wryly at us for just a second as we moved closer to his checkout stand. Then he turned his attention back to the young lady beside the register. He had just scanned four tubes of a popular health & beauty product for her.
“That will be twenty-one dollars and seventy-six cents, Ma’am.”
Silently, the lady reached into her wallet and took out a coupon. Beep! He scanned the bar code into the machine. The total was instantly three dollars lower.
He turned to her to tell her the new amount, but all she did was pull another coupon from her wallet. Each time he completed the scan on one, she pulled out another, until there were five coupons on the counter. He dutifully scanned each one in. With the fifth piece of paper though, the machine let out a raucous screech, instead of the cutesy beeping sound we were becoming accustomed to.
“I’m sorry, Ma’am. You can’t use that coupon since you already used the others.”
She was incredulous. Handing the printed coupon back to him, she insisted he try it again. He obliged, but the machine screeched one more time. The young man tried patiently to explain that she couldn’t use a coupon on an item for which she had already presented a coupon.
Now, she wasn’t just incredulous; she was miffed. She snatched the offending coupon up off the counter and stuffed it into her wallet. Quickly paying the nine dollar total (for twenty-one dollars worth of product), she strode off in a huff, her husband trailing behind.
When we completed our own transaction with the poor young man, the Lovely Lady and I headed for the exit, only to run across the lady and her husband standing near the door still. She was pointing to the receipt in her hand and gesturing angrily back toward the cash register. It seemed the young clerk wasn’t quite finished with the interchange. We didn’t hang around to see the conclusion.
People are passionate about money, aren’t they?
Did you read the quote which opened this article? It’s from a play by William Shakespeare, entitled Othello. Mr. Shakespeare is actually trying to bolster up an argument about the value of a good name. But, in doing that, he gives a fairly accurate description of the value of money.
Trash. He calls it trash.
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands. . .
The Bard of Avon wasn’t the first to come to this conclusion. He put it differently than King Solomon, many centuries before him, did. A little differently.
Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless.
(Ecclesiastes 5:10 ~ NIV)
Jesus walked among the wealthy and the poor. He enjoyed the plenty of food and fellowship as well as knowing the poverty of homelessness. He also used the word slave in relationship to money. But unlike Mr. Shakespeare many centuries later, Jesus didn’t refer to money as the slave.
No. He said that we are slaves to it. Or to God. (Matthew 6:24 ~ NIV)
We choose. But, servants we will be.
If you’re like me, you will immediately state the obvious:
I want to be the servant of God. I will never serve money.
But again, if you’re like me, the resolve lasts as long as it takes to encounter someone who tries to take advantage of you.
Did you pay attention to the lady in the story above? Some of us read her plight with a sympathetic spirit. That greedy corporation! What would a few dollars mean to them? Why would they cheat her like that?
If we stop and contemplate for a moment, however, the truth begins to dawn. The company was selling the product for a fair market price. The company issued the coupons which reduced that price by more than half.
The discount was a gift to her! A gift from the very company of whom she demanded more.
How like her we are. Every single thing we have—every possession, every dollar, every benefit—each one is a gift from a loving and benevolent Heavenly Father. Every good gift comes down from Him. (James 1:17 ~ NIV)
Every good gift.
Somehow though, the good gifts He gives become, in our minds, our right—our birthright if you will—and we desire more. In Solomon’s words above, we are never satisfied.
But, like dragon’s gold, we lie on our hoarded wealth and become greedy, selfish dragons ourselves. I can’t help but see that selfish, hateful boy—from C.S. Lewis’s Voyage of the Dawn Treader—Eustace Scrubb, in my mind as I consider our plight.
The self-centered boy wandered away from his traveling companions and found the treasure trove of a dragon which had just died. Crawling up on the stack of gold and jewels, he fell asleep.
A funny thing happens to the boy while he sleeps on his astounding find, perhaps not unlike the transformation we go through as we hold our earthly treasure close.
Here are Mr. Lewis’s words: Sleeping on a dragon’s hoard with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart, he has become a dragon himself.
I wonder if I’ve already said too much. Perhaps I’ve stood on this soap box longer than I should tonight.
But, after all, I know what is in my heart. It’s not a pretty sight. I also know the conversations I’ve read and heard recently—conversations which convince me that what is in my heart is not exclusive to only me.
It may be time for the Lion to do His work in removing the dragon scales from around my heart. They’ve been growing for awhile. It will likely take some doing.
It might be a little painful, as well.
But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?
(I John 3:17 ~ NASB)
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
(from The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien ~ English author/educator ~ 1892-1973)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.