You cannot serve God and Mammon. – Matthew 6:24
Do you control your money or does your money control you? There was a time in my life when I have to say I had no control. It reminds me of when I lost control of my car. Someone came at me from nowhere and I swerved. Somehow I had sense enough not to slam on brakes, but though I tried to steer, the steering wheel didn’t respond. The car went into the oncoming lane, and if another car had been coming, it would have been a head-on smash up. If the highway hadn’t been straight, I’d have wound up in the ditch—or a telephone pole.
I didn’t ask Jesus to take the wheel, but I think He must have. During this ordeal I was perfectly calm until the car slowed down and got under my control. And I think Jesus must have been there when I lost control of my money, because I survived without permanent damage.
How well I remember that sensation of making good money but seeing it slip through my fingers. I had a bad habit of spending money unwisely, not accounting for it. It controlled me.
It’s a Matter of Will
As with all habits, breaking it requires willpower. You can either use willpower to avoid the thing or keep it under control. You can avoid drugs or cigarettes, but you can’t avoid money. Like food, you need it to live.
Here is a story of a young woman who managed to control both food and money.
Addicted to Cupcakes
This woman wasn’t overweigh but she loved sweets, especially Hostess cupcakes. She couldn’t see them without buying a package and devouring both of the little devils food delights before she got home. Of course she realized this was not a healthy snack, and she knew she was addicted. It seemed ridiculous, even scary, that these cakes had such a hold on her.
She resolved to break this habit and decided the only way to do that was to keep a package of those cupcakes in her bedroom, sitting in full view, day and night…and resist eating them. There had to be a package of two cupcakes sitting on her dresser week after week, indefinitely, to prove she’d broken her habit.
You have to remember this woman loved the taste of these cakes–drooled over them. The test she’d set up for herself wasn’t easy. Before the first day was out, she started rationalizing. Just one wouldn’t hurt. If she could get through the week with one cake left, she could claim a victory. Not only did she not have one left, but she had to bring in more. But she stuck to it and every time she gave in to temptation, she’d give herself a talking to, pray, and resolve to do better.
Gradually, she made progress. A week passed, then two…a month…with those Hostess cupcakes sitting there, still tempting her.
Then a miracle happened. One day she realized the cupcakes had no appeal at all. She couldn’t even remember what they tasted like, nor had any desire to find out. She dropped the package in the trash and hasn’t eaten any packaged cupcake since.
Breaking a Money Habit
When this young woman found money slipping through her fingers, she decided to try the cupcake approach. She’d leave a twenty on her dresser, in full view, and resolve not to touch it no matter how short on cash she was. And instead of just breaking the spending habit, she decided she might as well develop the saving habit. Each week she was able to leave the twenty alone, she’d add another one.
It wasn’t as easy as breaking the cupcake habit. Everything seemed to happen to break her budget, and there were so many things enticing her to buy…just this once. It was manageable at the beginning of her pay-period, but near the end, that twenty was in jeopardy. But she was determined. Each time she took the money and ran, so to speak, she asked herself what she’d have done if she hadn’t left it there to begin with—and prayed.
After almost a year, she’d accumulated only a hundred dollars. Christmas was coming up. How nice it would be to blow the whole wad as a reward. But by this time, she’d learned a few things about getting by when emergencies came and how to resist impulse buying. She decided it would feel a whole lot better to see how fast she could save another hundred.
Willpower is Power
I’m constantly in awe of the great gift God gave us in the form of a free will. Let us never forget willpower is useless unless we exercise it. It requires consistency and determination, but its power is enormous. With it you can control any behavior. You can control your money. It will become your servant as it should be.
Was the young woman me? Perhaps. She could be anyone.