Not under a rock for 127 hours, hacking off my own arm, although that’s what many of you think will inevitably happen to me on one of my climbing adventures.
No. Far worse, actually. I’m stuck in life.
Why? Because, like Sisyphus, I’m chained to something that I hate.
In fact, I would posit that most, if not all, Americans are slaves to the dollar in one way or another.
I’m working 40 hours a week at two different bars, and spending another 20 hours a week working on my various entrepreneurial endeavors. For what? So that I can take another trip, buy another house, plan for the future.
But why? We’re not even guaranteed tomorrow, much less retirement at 65 or 75 or 85, since Social Security will be bone-dry by the time I’m actually eligible.
We work. We all work. Except those who lazily sit at home watching Netflix and collecting unemployment, never applying for jobs or working very many hours lest they lose their government benefits. Benefits that come out of working class pockets. But, that’s another blog post altogether. I digress.
We justify our slavery to money with lines like, “Well, my family needs to eat!” or “I’m just trying to be smart financially!”
All the while, the bonds of slavery tighten.
Are you stuck? Do you feel like you just can’t get ahead? Do you tell yourself that once you’re in a different place financially, or once you get that promotion, or once you get a different job, or once your kids are grown, you’ll do things differently?
What does “getting ahead” even mean? It means more. Bigger houses. Faster toys. More first-class tickets.
What good is it if a man gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?
Contrary to popular belief, I’m not independently wealthy. In the least. I have no kids, no wife, no car payment, and no student debt (or debt of any kind, except mortgages), which enables me to spend money on a lot of things that I enjoy. Then, I go back to work and save up and do it all over again.
Some may point to the things I do and say that I’m an inspiration, that my photos and adventures inspire them to get out and do more, that my music touches them. I definitely appreciate hearing those things. However, much of what I do is based around me. I’m selfish to the core.
Hiking, travel, and real estate aren’t bad things. In fact, they’re positive, when part of a balanced approach to life and finances. Unfortunately, I lack that balance.
Sure, I sponsor some children in Africa and India. Sure, I donate a portion of each album sale to MercyCorps. And I pat myself on the back smugly and go right on living a selfish life, a slave to the dollar and what it can do for me.
Do I say I trust God with everything, including my money? Yes.
Does my life demonstrate that to be true? No.
Here I sit, in my comfortable house that cost me hundreds of thousands, wearing clothes that cost me hundreds, drinking organic kombucha that cost me $5, writing about money and sacrifice.
What would it take for me to step out in faith? To quit my job, to sell almost everything, and to move to a place with a lot of need? To give my life, and money, in service to others, not from a stage but behind the scenes? Would I finally learn to rely on God, to give Him control of my wallet as well as my heart?
God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He doesn’t promise to make things easy for us. In fact, just the opposite. The Message puts Matthew 10:38–39 this way: “If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.”
I’m comfortable. I’m stuck. I don’t deserve Him. And I can’t find myself.
When I look at myself in the mirror, I see a man who wants to give more. Who wants to serve more. But because of my dependence on the almighty dollar and the security and happiness it brings, I can’t. Or won’t. My first concern is to look after myself. So I remain stuck. Stuck in a barely bourgeoisie bubble of comfort and cowardice. My savings account gets fuller while my soul is sucked dry.
What’s it going to take?
My Westernized brain tells me to include a disclaimer here. To say something about how saving and planning are good and balance is necessary. God calls us to be faithful stewards, after all, in a famous parable.
In reading that parable, though, it’s easy to forget that the money that we’re supposed to steward is His, not our own. Do we believe that? Do we actually think that He can provide? Do we go search for our own beef instead of trusting in His cattle on a thousand hills? Do we hedge our bets against His faithfulness with our 401ks and investments? What could He do with our money if we trusted Him with more than ten percent of it?
I don’t have the guts to find out. I wish I did. I hope to.
Did the words of Jesus somehow take on a different meaning over the last two millennia? Did He ask more of his followers then than He does of us now? Does writing a check to a charity really count as giving up everything to follow Him? Or have we become numb to the stark reality of what Jesus has called us to do: to trust Him with everything? To sacrifice everything?
What if Jesus Himself, after thinking things through, would have decided not to give it all? What if He would have come down wrapped in glory, said some positive things about self-improvement, and then ascended back to heaven, never having tasted death or suffering on our behalf? Our eternal future would look a lot different, that’s for sure.
In conclusion, I don’t have answers. I don’t know how to unchain myself, but I know that some big changes are necessary. And they’re coming.
I don’t want to be Sisyphus. I don’t want to be stuck.
Money is replaceable. Time spent chasing it is not.