Death by a Thousand Pennies
by Ty Carlson
I remember reading a story about a guy with 1,000 gold coins in a purse at his belt. One day, while he was walking through the town, a small rip opened at the bottom of the bag. The man noticed it and thought since it was so small, even if he lost one or two coins, it wouldn’t make a difference. So he went about his day and completely ignored it. That night when he went to check his coin purse, he realized it was empty. The rip wasn’t any larger, but one by one, the coins fell out of his purse and were lost. The first one or two coins didn’t make a difference in the whole 1,000 coins, but the 100th, and 200th slowly made all the difference.
I was raised to understand the value of a dollar, but didn’t understand the depth of it. As a budding consumer, I also didn’t care very much that I spent it. I remember my dad reading Matthew 20 about the vineyard workers. This guy hires workers throughout the day for about $3.50. At the end of the day, he pays everyone the same amount, regardless of how long they worked. When the hired hands who worked the longest begin complaining, he ends with saying “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?” and to my misfortune, I think that’s where I stopped listening. I believed that I had the right to do what I wanted with it since it was, for the time being, mine. I understood its value, apparently.
In our society, there is so much that is so easily accessible with just a small and seemingly insignificant fee. I had several subscriptions to music and video services that I used daily, but in a month, that accounted for nearly $50. Each one couldn’t have been more than a few bucks, but like everything, they added up. I didn’t count them all together because they felt too small to make any dent in our budget. Now I have cut back on some of them, and while the convenience of not having to listen to commercials was really nice, it wasn’t worth the little bit of extra every month. Our culture tells us so frequently how easy it is to get what you want for a tiny slice of the pie. What we need to remember is that’s God’s pie, we’re just in charge of handing out the pieces.
The story of the Feeding of the 5,000 is a perfect example of this. One boy offered what little he had, that would not make a difference to any more than one person, and gave it to Jesus to do what He wanted with it. Jesus, in return, was able to multiply this little boy’s lunch beyond what’s even imaginable. Our finances are no different. You may not have much, God doesn’t care. He’s given you some, and the big difference is what you do with what he’s given you.
What effect does my life have on yours? Other than the obvious “be wise with your money” there’s more to it than that. I was taught that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10) but money isn’t the root of all evil. There’s a way that you can travel this winding road without ignoring the opportunites – for yourself for others – it can provide. Now I’m learning that this tool requires some apprenticeship. It’s not a screwdriver, it’s a chainsaw. It requires intentional acts and knowledge from reputable sources. Read the parables in the Bible about money. There are 11, out of the 39 to be exact, and all of them can help save you from a slow and painful financial death. Death by a thousand pennies can happen before you realize it, but it can be stopped at the 999th, you just have to choose it. Don’t believe that that small rip – whether it’s a subscription of some kind or a daily coffee or Dr. Pepper – is insignificant. They all count in God’s plan for our use of His money. How will you address that tiny rip?