I’ve been an illusionist for years. I love reading books about magicians, their showmanship, and secrets to their illusions. One of the greatest illusions is greed. It disguises itself as “being smart,” “planning ahead,” and “getting a great deal.”

I heard a couple tell me that they upgraded their SUV because they “were getting killed on gas prices….”  Hmmmm, sounds smart. Seems reasonable. Seems like a Godly thing to do for their own stewardship of both their money and the environment.  Or is it? I’ve had an SUV for several years now. I have been tempted many times to sell it for a smaller vehicle, but the math doesn’t make sense. My car is paid off. My whole adult life I’ve made a commitment to only buy vehicles I pay cash for.   I’ve never owned a new car.  The minute you drive them off the lot, they sink in value. I’ve always owned “newer” cars.  The one I own is a little newer than the one I used to own.   My dad modeled this for me since I was a kid. My first car was $200. Were there repairs on it? Yes. Every time I complained about repairs, my father reminded me that my car was paid off. He reminded me that I had a repair payment, but not an ongoing car payment. He showed me where the bible says, “Contentment mixed with Godliness is great gain.”

When I think about trading in my paid off SUV, I run the numbers. The car runs great. If gas goes up two dollars a gallon -as it has in the past two years-, the total annual pain in my budget is at the very worse: $1000.  While I am not excited about forking out $1000 in gas money, there are many other factors to consider.  If I trade my car in,  I only get half of what I paid for the SUV.  The way to see if I end up ahead is to combine that loss with the additional monthly car payments I’ll have with my new car.  Do I end up ahead?  No, not even close. The extra $1000 a year in gas is nothing compared to the new car payment, the loss of equity, etc  -even if you factor in the savings on gas.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate seeing the gas pump moving into three figures to fill my car… But, too often, a greedy heart wants to upgrade a car or house to impress others…. So the greedy heart hires (or hijacks) the brain to bring back rationales to support it’s conclusion. That’s why godonomics challenges us all. Jesus said, “Beware the many faces of greed…”

There is rich greed:  Never sharing a significant percentage of your income. There is poor greed: Thinking you are entitled to something and someone else should buy it. There is hoarding greed: Stuffing coffer after coffer with savings thinking a 401k and bank account will make you safe. There is overspending greed: which convinces you to buy before you can afford it. It whispers in your ear to spend more than you have.  It talks you into upgrading as the smart move -while really looking to feel better about yourself. Greed. The solution is simple. Not easy, but simple. There is a idol in your life that has replaced God. It may be status. It may be politics. It might be government. It might be the free market. It might be your fame or reputation, but mark my words: It’s driving you.

The  only way to implement any financial system is to address the greed behind the curtain of your heart.   If your instinct is to blame others for being greedy…

“Those greedy rich people”  Or  “Those greedy politicians”

“Those greedy Democrats,” “Those Greedy Republicans,”

“Those Greedy Unions…”  or  “Those Greedy Corporate Managers…”

If the term greed causes an instinct in you to point your finger across the room, I can promise you that greed has you in its clutches. You’ll know God is freeing you from greed when your instinct is to look in the mirror FIRST.   Exterminate the termites of Greed in your own heart before finding it in the world around you.   With greed tied up in the corner, you’ll be able to run the numbers on a decision and make that smart choice. Should you trade in the SUV? That’s up to you.. Make sure you’ve run the real numbers, not just made an excuse for an upgrade. It might be a better idea to put some energy into carpooling with a neighbor to pick up kids from school, soccer, or play practice. Imagine how much you and your neighbor could save by “joining forces.”  You’d save money, renew some connections, and not have an additional car payment.

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