Money: The Other Identity Thief
If you’re not careful, money can destroy the identity that God gave you and make you something you don’t want to be.
Online hackers and dumpster divers aren’t the only threats to your identity. Money can be an identity thief — give it a chance, and it will steal your identity right out from under your nose.
“Who am I?” has been the most difficult question I have tackled in life . Lots of people have weighed in on my identity. My parents, teachers and pastors have had encouraging things to say. The plastic Hollywood faces in the pages of mainstream magazines, though, could make make me feel hopelessly inferior.
Those voices, though, were not the loudest in my life. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my money was screaming louder than all of them.
I measured my success by my bank account and salary, and I compared myself to others based on their financial success.
Money told me who I was and what I was worth. I measured my success in life by my bank account and salary, and I compared myself to others based on their financial success. And I almost lost my true identity by listening to the lies that money told me. Money was an identity thief, and I was its victim.
An Identity Thief in Sheep’s Clothing
Money impacts our lives in so many way: It rewards us for hard work, and punishes us for poor management. Having money makes a lot things easier. When money is scarce, even the most basic elements of human life can become almost unbearable. So it stands to reason that money can have a strong impact in our identities. After all, it shapes so much of the human experience that it can seemingly define that experience itself.
But if you let money define you, bad things will happen. If you see yourself as important because of your big bank account, you risk turning into a greedy jerk that nobody really wants to be around. And if you think you’re a nobody because you don’t don’t have many fancy things, you’re headed into a dangerous poverty mentality.
When we let money define us, it robs us of the identities that God intended us to have. Money can give me an identity, but it will always be a false one.
When we begin to see our lives through the lens of that false identity, we develop distorted vision. We play the comparison game, failing to see the value in people who do not measure up to us financially. Or we see reduced, distorted visions of ourselves. We become unwilling to give, unwilling to save, unwilling to use our finances to make a difference in the world around us.
Learning from the Rich Young Ruler
This temptation can prove especially strong for the wealthy. Jesus pointed this out in His conversation with the Rich Young Ruler in Luke 18. Though this young man had been largely faithful to the Old Testament law, he identified himself by his possessions. And couldn’t bring himself to part with them for the sake of the Kingdom:
When Jesus heard his answer, he said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
But when the man heard this he became very sad, for he was very rich.
When Jesus saw this, he said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God! In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”
This young man had done so many things right in life, and yet He was a slave to money. Jesus offered him a chance to follow — to be a disciple — and yet the man turned it down. He couldn’t leave the wealth and the material things that defined him. Money is an identity thief, and the Rich Young Ruler was its victim.
Walk with God, Not with Wealth
This doesn’t mean wealthy people can’t go to heaven. But people who see themselves as rich struggle with the sacrifice and humility required to follow Christ. When we get our identities tangled up in our wealth, our devotion to God suffers. And when money comes between us and Him, it has turned us into slaves.
I make money, but money will never make me.
I hope that one day my hard work and diligence will lead to financial success. But God has taught me not to let money define myself anymore. God created me and Jesus bought your identity with His blood. I make money, but money will never make me.
Money can be an identity thief. But I’m determined not to let it steal my identity again.