The Danger of Money

I have been thinking about money a bit lately, mainly because I don’t have much of it.  It’s funny how that works.  You tend to think that wealthy people are the ones who value money the most, but don’t underestimate the power that money holds over the middle and lower classes.  The guy who just won the lottery may dream about the possibilities that have been opened to him, but the guy who is living paycheck to paycheck may have nightmares about the possibilities that could be foreclosed on him.  And in their waking hours both men may focus on money most of the time: the one because he has so much, and the other because he has so little and wants more.

By God’s grace, we just came to the end of a home-buying process that began in March.  It ended happily for us.  We now own a home in Jackson, Tennessee (so if you’re wondering where our money went, most of it is invested in the house now).  For the first time in our lives, we own this little piece of the American dream.  And if I could go back, I would hope that I could have handled the whole process better.

Given the way the housing market has gone, credit has tightened up and lenders are becoming much more careful in the loan approval process.  The particular lender we were working with (a large company that specializes in mortgages) did not provide us with good customer service.  They were slow.  They were tedious.  They asked us for document after document and signature after signature.  They had to verify everything three or four different ways.  They forced us to push back our closing date two times, each time leaving us wondering if the seller (who had already been very patient with us) would finally decide to back out and look for another deal.  Because of our mortgage company, a process that began in March could not come to completion until June 30th.

That is a long time to live in limbo.  The house we are now renting in Louisville must be vacated by July 31st, and in any case all this time we have been planning our move for July 24th.  If the deal on this house had fallen through, we would have been left with very little time to find alternative living arrangements.  Numerous scenarios crossed my mind about what could happen to my family.  As a man, a husband, and a father, it is a hard to live in limbo.  You want to be able to point to the roof that will shelter your wife and children, the roof that you have provided for them, and when you can’t do that a sense of failure begins to well up inside you.

Living in limbo took its toll.  I allowed stress to get the better of me.  I found it hard to focus on anything else but the mortgage.  My prayer life took a hit.  My temper flared up on occasion.  I spent hours researching this mortgage company on the internet and agonizing over whether I should pull out and try my luck with another lender (but in the process risking an even lengthier process).  For a while there, I felt like I just wasn’t myself (or, perhaps I was more myself than I realize; sometimes external factors peel away layers of sin that we have never noticed before).

Toward the end, I think I reached a period of greater calm.  On the one hand, that may have been because we were getting some signals that we were near the end.  On the other hand, it may have been because I realized how much I had let earthly, temporal matters like money and the possibilities it offered to us (a new home) dominate my horizons.  I needed to be reminded of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:29-31:

This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short.  From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as if they had no dealings with it.  For the present form of this world is passing away.

Obviously, Paul is not advocating a retreat from the world and its institutions.  He does not want us all to withdraw into convents and monasteries and other secluded, celibate communities.  He assumes that we will continue to be married.  We will continue to live in this world, do business in the world, buy, sell, apply for loans, etc.  But he calls us to do it with one thing in mind: the fact that this present world is already in process of passing away.  The resurrection of Christ marks the beginning of the end of this present age.  We cannot withdraw from a world destined to pass away, but we can relativize its importance in our own minds by a greater focus on the world to come.

When I allow things like difficult loan approval processes to get the better of me and overwhelm me with stress, I am communicating something that I don’t want to communicate.  I am saying that my hope is so bound up with the money that this lender can give me that, if I don’t get it, I will be undone.  How sad is that?  It is completely the opposite of Paul’s eschatological perspective outlined in 1 Corinthians 7.  If, on the other hand, I can take mortgage difficulties in stride and show an unshakable joy in Christ and in the inheritance I have in him, I can show the world something of how precious and wonderful he really is.  Just as faithful martyrs demonstrate that the steadfast love of the Lord is better than life, I recently had an opportunity to demonstrate that the steadfast love of the Lord is better than credit, better than houses, better than the American dream.  I don’t think I seized that opportunity.

I am so thankful that we have the house now.  God has truly blessed us.  But I am even more thankful that here, at the end of this process, my excitement about being a homeowner is a little more chastened. And that’s how it should be.

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4 Responses to “The Danger of Money”

  1. Ali Says:

    Hey, congratulations! Despite the pain and frustration (and while it’s not always that bad, it’s usually painful), it must be great to have your own home – well, to have started on the process of having your own home.

  2. Luke A. Says:

    Congratulations on your new home! As a fairly recent home buyer myself (2005) I understand the agony and the extacy of the process. I was lucky though, we bought a home in the “easy times” and the approval process wasn’t so bad. I could only imagine what it would be like now! So congrats on making it through and taking the time to look at yourself under stress! It’s remarkable how we all react.

    PS: Would you email me your new address?

  3. fenderpooh Says:

    Thanks, Ali and Luke. Yes, Luke. I’ll send it your way.

  4. Kathy Says:

    God’s timing is not always our timing. I have had to learn that many, many times.

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