Do you struggle with spending money on stuff you know you don’t need? Have you ever wondered why it’s a struggle? Intellectually, yeah, you know you don’t need that new pair of shoes, or that new car, or that fidget spinner, or that whatever-you’re-buying. So why’s it in your hand? Why are you at the register with it? For me, as cliché as it sounds, it was about identity. I convinced myself over and over again that if I had X, I could increase my social standing in some measurable way, that I could change who I was because of what I owned. And sometimes, it worked. I was one of the first to order the iPhone 5s when it was announced. It was the first iPhone with Touch ID, and it was basically the key to automatic friend drool. People asked me about it, wanted to try it, and were amazed at how it worked. It was awesome… for about a month. When the novelty wore off, so did the social status bump. I was back to the normal guy I had been before I got the phone, though now I was chained to it for another 18 months or so until it was paid off.
My mistake, and the mistake that so many of us make, was that I was trying to base my identity in something that doesn’t last. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still using that same phone four years later, and it’s still running like a champ. But nobody cares about it anymore. It’s a great-grandpa in phone terms, and there’s another newer, better baby on the way this year. If I was to pull it out in a room full of people now and try and get them to ooh and aah over it, they’d just laugh. If I wanted to keep my status as the “guy with the new gadgets,” I’d have to buy every new iPhone as soon as it came out.
Even earlier this week, I was driving home from work and the cruise control in my car gave out. My first thought? “Great, now I’m the guy that’s going to have to duct tape his windows and have one foot out the door scooting myself along like Fred Flintstone to get my engine to turn over. People are going to laugh and point every time I turn my back.” I immediately equated who I was with the (admittedly laughable) car I drive. When you say it out loud, it sounds ridiculous. “I deserve praise because I have _________.” Put whatever you want in that blank, it doesn’t make it any better.
But we do this all the time, and not just with possessions. We want to be known as the perfect mom, the Ivy League alumnus, the business tycoon, the fitness expert. Each of these things bases our identity in something outside ourselves, beyond our control. We can filter our Instagram and brag on social media all day long about how we’re great people because of this thing that we do/have done, but ultimately, kids act up, schools have scandals, businesses fail, and bodies contract disease.
So we’ve got this strong desire to show the world the entirety of who we are in one little snippet. What do we do with it? How can we reliably give an accurate 30-second introduction that shows off who we are, regardless of the fashions or flavors of the day? For me, I found the answer in my faith, and in shifting who I was trying to impress. My God doesn’t care what kind of phone I have or what car I drive or what the size of my bank account is. He cares that I live by the example He set for me. His love for me is the only thing that I’ve found in this world that will never change, no matter what. And the best part? His love isn’t based on who I am or what I’ve done or what I have. Look at Romans 9:15-16, “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” His love is based on His choosing to love us. And before you think, “Well, what if He changes His mind?” look at Ephesians 1:4-5, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will[.]” Being outside of time, God can do this really cool thing where all of history (and the future) is like a movie reel. He can at once see every single thing that ever has or ever will happen. For some reason, He decided to have compassion on me before I was even born, and there’s obviously nothing I can do to influence that decision.
As a result, my bank account (and my anxiety) has been less strained. I’m not constantly trying to find ways to get the best deal on the latest toy, because the God I live for doesn’t care whether or not I have it. All the money I have is His anyway, so it’s almost comical thinking I could do or buy something to make Him think, “Wow, that guy’s pretty cool.” He just wants my obedience in loving and serving my neighbor. No matter what my physical situation, I can rest confident in the knowledge that I am a redeemed child of God. One that, for now, has to maintain speed on the highway manually and call people around the world on a four-year-old phone. What a horrible life, right? Instead of claiming to be a better person because we have X or do Y, why don’t we just focus on being better people? We have a perfect example of how to live, so let’s forget about all this stuff that won’t matter next month anyway and live like Him. That’s what will last.
What about you? Have you ever caught yourself getting swept up in some craze or fad? What impresses you about other people?