Having no money. It’s frustrating. It was fine when I was a student; no one really had much money to spare (apart from the Super Wealthy Internationals and people who lived on estates of a non-council variety in Surrey). But now it’s just plain annoying. Every day I’m confronted with a lifestyle that I can’t afford – office workers who buy their lunch every day rather than bring last night’s leftovers in Tupperware, hipsters drinking hand-roasted coffee in independent boutique vintage pop-up coffee shops, and people who take expensive train rides to visit friends in the country on the weekends (or maybe I should just stop watching Made in Chelsea). It’s not so much money that’s the idol. It’s the lifestyle.
It’s the lifestyle that I crave. I don’t want piles of cash sitting in the bank gathering dust and interest. I know that saving money now doesn’t ensure security in the future. Pension? Pur-lease, I know I’ll be working till I drop dead on the job. Yes, I am aware that more money in the bank would mean I could afford the lifestyle. But I don’t want more. I know that I don’t need more. I just want what it brings.
It’s the idol of a lifestyle that I don’t have that steals my contentment. It’s the lifestyle idol that robs me of joy. It’s the lifestyle idol that takes away peace. It’s the lifestyle idol that says if only you could live like this then your life would be better/more fulfilling/perfect. It’s the idol of lifestyle that says Jesus isn’t enough to get you through life.
You see, I believe that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). I have the fairtrade eco-friendly t-shirts that loudly proclaim love and not money makes the world go round (and by love I mean God). I’ve listened to sermons and read books about how to use my money responsibly and resist its sweet yet seductive tones. I didn’t quite take a vow of poverty but I decided to not let money be the main influencer of my decisions – hello poorly paid job that I enjoy. So I said farewell to takeaways, so long to Topshop wardrobe, auf wiedersehen to shopping at Wholefoods (why are kale chips supposed to be good for you anyway?) and then I said goodbye to spontaneous trips to visit friends in far-flung corners of the country (where even is Barnstaple?).
But what I’d never really understood was that just because you’ve accepted that you’ll have less it won’t stop you being jealous of what you chose to give up. It’s not so much money that’s the idol, it’s the lifestyle. What’s even worse is that I’m fully aware that right now there are heaps of people who would be grateful for less than half of what I have. Yet that lifestyle calls my name, and dares me to dream of what could be.
I think gratitude is where the answer to this problem lies. Daily, even hourly gratitude. So instead of getting food envy at lunchtime I can be thankful that I had enough food left from last night’s dinner to eat today. Instead of sighing longingly at edgy coffee shops I can be thankful that I have everything I need to make coffee at home. Instead of complaining about train fares I can be thankful that I don’t live in the dark ages before Skype and phone calls where contacting friends was via snail mail only. And then hopefully, through thankfulness I can learn the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want (Philippians 4:12).