Columbia University professor of business Sheena Iyengar tells this story: When I was a PhD student, I was studying Japanese. So I went to Japan for a couple of years. A strange thing happened to me on my first night. When I ordered this cup of green tea, the waiter brought it over and I asked for some sugar. The waiter said politely we don’t put sugar in our green tea. I said, “I understand in Japan you are not supposed to put sugar in your green tea. But I am an American — could you forgive me and let me have some?” The waiter hesitated and I insisted. Then the waiter went and talked to the manager. Finally the manager comes and says “Sorry, we don’t have sugar.” I said, “Okay, I’ll order a cup of coffee.”
And I get the cup of coffee and on the saucer are two packets of sugar! At first I am outraged. He is violating my rights as a customer. But in Japan they were protecting me from committing the ultimate faux pas — drinking my tea incorrectly.
God rarely is as stringent in keeping someone from a particular action. He may send a warning from a friend, put an article or book in front of us or cause a pang of conscience. Rarely, however, does God shut a door, lock it, and throw away the key.
God cares deeply, but gives us a choice. For example, wealth can be quite enjoyable and used to help others. It may be quite destructive, also. God’s loving concern about wealth shines clearly through the Psalmist and is echoed many other places in Scripture. “Though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them.”
“Heart” refers to the center of a person’s thoughts, will, emotions, and knowledge of right from wrong (conscience). John Wesley writes “From that express declaration of our Lord, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven,” we may easily learn, that none can have riches without being greatly endangered by them.”
Wealth tends to lead us away from God. We become less generous and more selfish when considering the percent of income kept and the percent given away. Often, time building and enjoying family, friends, and coworkers is sacrificed in order to spend more time on the task of making more money.
In other words, wealth tends not to enhance life in the places that really matter. Rather, wealth often detracts from the very people and values we think we need more money for. Wealth becomes “mine” rather than a tool placed at God’s disposal to bless others and lead them into an abundant everlasting life with Jesus. Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and Money”.
What is a person to do? Give money away as quickly as it is received? Possibly. Another is to surround yourself with two or three accountability partners to explore the books or who are in a position to observe if you keep your stated goals.
There can be only one top priority in life. God makes the rest of life rich when everything else is secondary. What is the priority revealed by the use of time, finances, and ability in your life and mine?