Five Dollars at a Dime Store
The sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. James 1:11
When I was four or five years old, my older siblings and I went to stay with my grandparents on their Iowa farm for a week. Later in the week, probably desperate for something to do with us, my grandmother took the three of us to a dime store in town, where she gave us each five dollars to spend however we wanted. As soon as I walked in, I saw what I wanted. There sat an Atari video game system and for my five dollars, I could play for 30 minutes. I absolutely loved video games, but we didn’t have an Atari at home, so for the next half hour, I was in heaven.
My brother and sister apparently spent their time (and money) shopping for gifts for my parents, also buying something small for themselves. When we left, I had nothing. I felt a little ashamed that they’d spent their money on others – and had something to show for it. My video gaming was just a memory. I had nothing. I didn’t feel good, but I also realized that if we did the same thing again the next day, I’d spend my money the same way. I couldn’t help it. I wanted to play video games that badly.
This was probably a harbinger of my poor decision-making skills later in life. In my drug addiction, I sold my future for the immediate high and pleasure of the pill. I lived for now as I wasted a tremendous amount of effort and time pursuing my own appetite above all.
Today’s passage teaches that this live-for-now attitude isn’t just about video games or drugs. In it, James taught that money and possessions are like a wildflower, beautiful but temporary. It’s not necessarily wrong to have money and toys, but when we find our joy, purpose, and meaning in those things, we waste our lives, just as I wasted my five dollars in that dime store.
We’re given one life. If we choose poorly, we can waste it and one day stand before God, showing him only our toys. Or, we can use this life to invest in the eternal. When my brother and sister bought gifts for my parents, the trinkets didn’t last, but the gesture of giving did. Similarly, our money and stuff won’t last, but what we invest in people will. If we truly love God, we will obey him, loving and serving all those whom he puts in our lives. And that is not a wasted life.