A few years ago I went on a coupon kick and signed up for three or four e-mail coupon services. After a couple of months I realized that clipping the coupons was actually making my food budget go up, because I had previously purchased primarily store brand products, and even with the coupons the brand name products were more expensive, so I dropped the coupon clipping and haven’t looked back. I am, however, still on the RedPlum e-mail list. Periodically I will receive an e-mail from them with a good offer, so I have chosen to remain on the list for those periodic gems.
Last week I got an e-mail from RedPlum with the subject line, “Would you like to win $5000 a week for the rest of your life?” Uh yeah. I mean that would represent a 1300% raise. Who wouldn’t take that? It was an offer to enter the Publisher’s Clearinghouse sweepstakes. I don’t actually think that PCH is a sweepstakes. I believe it is a stamina contest, and the winner is the person who fills out the most forms and questions and little boxes and offers and . . . and that person, by default, cannot be a pregnant 36 year old with two young children. But the subject line keeps coming back to me. It’s become my little “what-if” game.
$5000 each week. What would we do with $5000 each week? Apart from pay for tuition and tell our financial supporters that they are loved and cherished and not needed financially any more. There are a few no-brainers: pay off our van pretty quickly and get Jonathan a little secondhand truck, buy enough bookshelves to hold all of our books, support some missionary friends, buy myself a cute maternity church dress. Pretty soon, however, I began to realize that while a raise of that magnitude would certainly make some aspects of life easier, there are a lot of things it couldn’t help me to do.
No amount of money will train my children in righteousness. It can’t help me learn to manage my household well – in fact, it could hurt because I would be tempted to hire a housekeeper. Money won’t make memorizing Greek any easier for Jonathan, or a fourth pregnancy any easier on my body. It can’t buy sleep, satisfaction or sanctification.
I also realized that right now, having an income of that level would create a series of difficult decisions. We love our neighborhood! Would we be tempted to move? Jonathan enjoys his work at Chick-Fil-A, and the ministry opportunities it presents. He would like to be able to drop to 15 or 20 hours per week, but if we were getting a check each week for doing nothing it would be sure tempting to just quit and focus on seminary full time, maybe finishing in 3 years instead of four. Would that be a wise decision? How would a weekly stipend representing 3 to 4 times what an average church would pay in a year shape the search for a call after seminary? And if things got a little rough in that church, would we have the stamina to work through it?
Proverbs 30:8 has this prayer
7 Two things I ask of you;
deny them not to me before I die:
8Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
9lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the LORD?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.
Living in North America we are full, even those of us living below the poverty line, and our temptation is to say “Who is the Lord?” We’ve spent some time praying for (and seeing, over and over) God’s provision in this first round of seminary semesters. Do I have the courage also to pray that I not receive riches, in order to remain dependent on a Sovereign God and to teach my children the same dependency?