the third conversion

My latest editorial in Christian Standard:

It was offering time, and the father sitting in front of me handed his 3-year-old son a dollar bill. The boy happily placed the money in the basket as it passed by, and then resumed working on the important task of covering his entire bulletin with green crayon scribbles.

While it was a nice moment, I distinctly remember thinking, “Sure, it’s easy to give someone else’s money.” But the truth is, I find it quite difficult to part with cash from Someone Else.

This child doesn’t own anything; he looks to his father for everything, and dad always comes through. So if dad shares even more, and directs where it should go, the boy has every reason to follow directions. With no expectations and with complete trust, he can give joyfully.

In some ways, Enise Grooms, the subject of an article I wrote this month, reminds me of that preschooler. Unlike that child, Enise is not simple; she is a grown woman, educated, who has ministered in tough situations around the world. But like that child, she truly believes her Father will provide everything she needs. He has always come through for her in the past, so when he gives her more, she can share it easily.

Matt and I use the Wunderlist app to update a running grocery list. A few years ago, as we co-parented two middle schoolers, managed the financial ups and downs of self-employment, and steered a small church trying to grow, there were days I wondered if God saw our struggles, or cared about them. I created a new list on the app, titled “Faithful,” and listed every example of God’s provision for us. Years later, I still return to it.

When I glance through the list I’m reminded of providential conversations with people who just “happened” to be in the right place at the right time. I see God’s hand in the timing of disappointments and delays. I also remember financial blessings; during that year I sold some property for more than I expected, received a brand-new laptop as a gift from an acquaintance, and started a new job that paid well. My Father came through for me and provided even more than we needed.

Yet I am not at all like the preschooler I observed during that offering time. I am not at all like Enise.
Today, as Matt and I save for retirement and prepare to send two kids to college, I still feel possessive of the sums my Father gives me. Yes, God has delighted in providing for me in the past, but what if he stops? Sure, there is joy in sharing with others, but there is also pleasure in keeping for myself. Although I have experienced God’s consistent care in my life, I want to hold on to the dollar bills he gives me instead of giving them away.

Martin Luther once wrote there are actually three conversions for the Christian: the heart, the mind, and the purse. My heart loves Jesus and my mind knows he loves me. We’re still working on what I do with his money.

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