I opened the refrigerator and there it sat. On the top shelf quivered a large maroon cow’s liver—inside a bright aqua bowl.
You might ask, “What was a cow’s liver doing in your refrigerator?”
The short answer is “thawing.” The long answer requires a bit of a story.
My husband and I married while still in school. John had finished his bachelor’s degree and one year of seminary. I was still working on my bachelor’s degree. My sweet husband graciously offered to take a one-year break from the seminary and work while I finished my degree. Then we would switch, and I would work while he finished his master of divinity degree.
We had enough funds to live. But just barely.
To save money, we ate liver. I know. Eww. But at that time, experts promoted it as a healthy source of iron. And it was inexpensive—you could get little orange cartons of sliced liver for 39 cents a pound. My mother-in-law’s recipe—with tomato sauce, green peppers, and rice—made it almost palatable. And so, liver became one of our go-to meals.
We laugh now. Our life as newlyweds had its challenges. Money was often a struggle.
Surely life would improve if only we had more money.
If Only We Had More Money
Probably most of us think life would be easier if only we had a little more money. With a bigger savings account, we could sleep better at night. We could get ahead of the bills, ahead of our debt, ahead of our neighbors.
While most of us wish we had more money, not many of us would admit to having an issue with greed. One reason for this is that our culture requires us to use money. We need money to pay for the necessities of food, clothes, and shelter. Money to go to school, money to get to work. Therefore, we rationalize we need more money. We simply don’t have enough.
But also, we may not see our problem with money because we spend most of our time with people in our same socioeconomic bracket. We live in the same neighborhoods, shop in the same stores, attend the same churches. We tend to measure ourselves against the friend who came to lunch with a designer-label purse on her arm or the neighbor who parks a new SUV in his driveway instead of comparing ourselves with the single mom struggling to feed her kids with food stamps or the retiree on a fixed income who is trying to make ends meet.
Money as an Idol
Money can be a monster issue in our lives. Jesus knew that. In fact, He preached on money often, saying, “You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). Money wasn’t a big deal to Him, but He knew it would be to us.
As I studied Jesus’ words, I recalled times when I did wrestle with the issue of money. I remembered my wish for more cash as newlyweds. My anxiety over house payments when we moved from Montana to Illinois without being able to sell our Montana home. My worries over paying college tuition for our children. My “less than” feelings when friends and family found high-paying jobs and I was “just” a piano teacher.
Like the rich fool, I have looked to money for answers found only in the God of sufficiency.
The problem comes when money is no longer simply a tool but an object of desire. The apostle Paul wrote to his protégé Timothy, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Timothy 6:10). Money becomes an idol when our greed—our quest for more—leads us to worship money and trust it more than God.
Perhaps you do not consider money a personal problem. Like I did, you may think, Money is not one of my idols. But answer this question: Do you feel you have enough money? Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.” I think many of us would admit to wanting more. We might feel wealthy if only we had twice as much as we have now.
And if I admit I occasionally worship at the altar of wealth, I find it helpful to ask one more question: Why has money become an idol? Why has money become so important in my life?
As a newlywed, I would have answered, “So I don’t have to eat liver every week.” But even after my husband and I finished school and began earning enough to eliminate that meal from our menus, I admit sometimes I was not satisfied with our income.
The Root of Dissatisfaction
For me, this dissatisfaction stemmed from a desire for security. When the statement from the bank announced a larger total in our checking account, I felt safer. A greater amount in the bank meant a greater ability to take care of ourselves. With more money, I felt more in control of my life. (That was very important to this admitted control freak.)
For others, more money may mean greater status. Greater wealth gives the ability to afford the car that gets noticed at valet parking or the bling that friends drool over at lunch. Personal affluence can open doors to private clubs and the opportunity to socialize with the elite. It can give the ability to subtly drop comments about going to the ritzy health spa, taking the Caribbean cruise, and scoring the impossible-to-get-tickets for a popular musical.
Examining why money sometimes becomes an object of worship in our lives can uncover deep-rooted idols in our lives.
Serving God instead of Money
Once we have identified these false gods, we can then go to the true God of sufficiency to topple them over. God desires that we view Him as the giver of all good gifts and the supplier of all our needs. He wants to free us from the prison of wanting more and more. He longs for us to experience the freedom of living a life of trust.
True significance doesn’t come from owning expensive things or being able to afford the best. There’s nothing wrong with buying a nice car or sparkling gem, but we don’t need to find our status in the size of our bank account. Our significance comes from realizing that as children of God’s family, we are royalty—sons and daughters of the Most High King.
God continually invites me to trust Him as the God of sufficiency. I’m still learning to live free. Free from the constant quest for more cash. Free from seeking security in the total in my savings account. (Also free from weekly meals of liver, thank You, God!)
And I’m learning to live rich. Rich in God’s grace and salvation. Rich in the knowledge that the Owner of everything sees me and knows my needs. Rich in being a baptized daughter of the King.
May you, too, live rich and free.
If you can't get enough, you can read more in my new study, Enough for Now!