Online hackers and dumpster divers aren’t the only identity thieves out there. Give it a chance, and money will steal your identity right out from under your nose.
“Who am I?” It can be one of the most difficult questions in life to answer. There are plenty of voices out there that would like to tell you who you really are, from your parents, teachers and pastors to the plastic Hollywood faces in the pages of mainstream magazines. And though you may not realize it, your money can scream louder than all of them.
Money impacts our lives in so many way: It rewards us for hard work, and punishes us for poor management. With a lot of money, a lot things in life become 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 almost seem to define that experience itself.
But if you let money define you, bad things will happen. If you see yourself as a big-shot because of your big bank account, you risk turning into a greedy hooligan that nobody really wants to be around. If you see yourself as a nobody because you don’t don’t have much cash or many fancy things, you’re headed into a dangerous poverty mentality.
When we let money tell us who we are, 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. And 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 ourselves as less than we are — unable to give, unable to save, unable to use our finances to make a difference in the world around us.
The temptation to embrace money as a false identity is especially strong for people who enjoy a lot of wealth. 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 Mosaic 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, because he couldn’t leave the wealth and the material things that defined him.
Jesus doesn’t mean, of course, that wealthy people can’t go to heaven. But people who see themselves as rich struggle with the sacrifice and humility that it takes to be a true disciple of 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 hope that one day your hard work and insight will bring you success. But always remember that it is God who made you, and Christ who bought your identity with His blood. Man makes money, but money does not make a man.