Ch.12 God is funny about money
Well at least God has ideas about money which we find strange. His ideas are, of course, the correct ones!
About the time Sue and I were married we had done the sensible thing and used our savings as a deposit on a home. All we could afford is a one-bedroom unit in a new block which had been built just up the road from where we lived in my parents old home. However it was a very nice little unit, and we had it rented out which paid the loan repayments on it. A very sensible arrangement. We loved houses, and had every intention of working our way up to a much more expensive house in this very desirable Sydney suburb.
As well we had saved enough money for a planned holiday trip to see England. As you recall from an earlier chapter, that was part of my debate with God about going into theological college a year before Sue graduated as a doctor: we would have to use that money to fund ourselves the year in college!
God was quite unmoved by our worldly view of how our money should be used and managed. We did go into college. We did forgo our trip to England. We also found it necessary to sell our little unit. Although the bank actually owned most of it, prices had risen steeply in the time we had it so it provided a substantial contribution to funding us through college.
Over the three month long vacation between second and third years I managed to get a temporary job as an engineer. With this temporary income, and Sue then working as a hospital doctor we looked a good financial prospect to the bank – who didn't inquire to find out that Sue was pregnant and going to stop work in a few months and I was about to stop work to resume college studies. So they lent us enough money to buy a sweet little three bedroom cottage on its regulation quarter-acre of land in Turramurra not far from Sue's parents home.
With this rented out and paying itself off we could confidently look forward to a little nest-egg growing for the time we retired and needed a house of our own (Anglican clergy live in church provided houses). On the whole we thought we had been prudent, provident and rather clever.
Then came the situation at Morwell. The parish said it could not afford to provide a house. We were young and idealistic. We also thought God intended us to go there and that God wished us to accept these terms. Ironically the minister I was curate under later told me I had been a fool to accept and should have called the parish's bluff and demanded my full rights. He said – not unkindly- that he hoped I had learned my lesson about how ministers needed to stand up for their rights, and would not be so naive in future. However we had accepted. We did have a lovely start living in the old model town of Yallourn. But now the crunch had come. We had to move from the Yallourn house so it could be demolished. There was nothing in the vicinity of Morwell that we could find to rent because of the huge power station construction under-way.
There were really only two choices. Ask the bishop to move us somewhere there was accommodation or buy a house.
Morwell was not a place we would choose to buy. It seemed, and indeed turned out to be a place where house prices were static at best.
So again we prayed and asked God for a sign. The only way the bank would lend us money for a house in Morwell was if we sold the one we owned in Turramurra. That did not make good business sense as Sydney house prices were steadily rising and we rightly guessed would continue to do so for decades to come.
So, this was our 'sign' we asked from God. We would advertise our little Turramurra house in the Saturday paper just once. We would put what seemed to us a ridiculously high price on it. If he wanted us to buy in Morwell would he please sell it that weekend. Sue's parents were kindly fielding the enquiries.
Yes, it sold that day for the price asked, in fact Sue's father said he could have sold it twice over there were so many keen buyers.
So we bough a dull but solid little three-bedroom house in Morwell. We moved in, renovated, re-decorated and found it fitted our needs very well. As well as our family need it provided a venue for the 'twenties' youth group we started, and for the women's group Sue began.
Looking back: in worldly terms God may seem to have funny ideas about money, but in reality it is we who have the wrong idea.
God, if we let him, uses money to achieve what he wants done at the present. We either want to hoard it against feared future needs or spend it on what we think will achieve our desires. Often we even more stupidly try to use it to achieve our idea of what God's plans should be.
Looking back I can see a bit more clearly that having us in Morwell God pushed his plans a bit further in several disparate directions.
It was a really good learning experience and training ground for us. Naturally being young and straight out of college I thought I knew it all. Naturally I was quite wrong – I had a great deal to learn! And that town, church, and the minister I worked under was ideal for filling in some of those gaps.
Our youthful enthusiasm was not wasted. Sue, as well as working a couple of days a week as a doctor started a women's prayer group and had a profound effect among women in her age-group. I was able to carry some of the load of grunt work of the parish – from pastoral visiting through religious instruction in the neighbouring schools to helping with the church's Sunday School.
I ran a teenage youth group and Sue and I between us ran a 'twenties' youth group. In both of these our youth, energy and enthusiasm for Christ was used by God.
Looking back I can also say two things. One is that God is jealous in his love for us. He will not tolerate other 'gods' rivaling him for our affection. He will not tolerate other 'gods' enslaving us to do their bidding – he wants us to find how 'his service is perfect freedom'. He will not tolerate other 'gods' in our thinking as our sustenance let alone salvation for the future.
We loved houses, houses in the leafy and beautiful garden suburbs we knew. We depended on worldly wisdom and prudent money management for our future. We had to be weaned off these rivals to God's superlative place-by-right in our lives to find full joy in our relationship with Him and to find the excitement and exhilaration life in his 'fast-lane'.
Oh, now that it is not an issue between us, God has not just let us have but actively given us more enjoyment in beautiful houses than we could have achieved in our old way of seeking it. God is gorgeous like that. However that is all a tale for later.
Thirty-five years on I still find God is funny about his use of money. It still seems counter to our human inclinations. But his way works. That again is a story to come.