You’d think my wife, Nora, is an exotic dancer. She comes home from work with thick stacks of bills – 1s, 5s, and 10s. But she doesn’t come home at 2am exhausted from a night of dancing, but rather at 4pm, also exhausted, but from a drama-filled day of working with teens.
She works in a high school and collects small payments from students for club activities or test registrations. Then she will typically pay the full amount with a check or credit card and keep the small bills for herself. Then, rather than depositing the cash at a bank or ATM, she will use it for spending money.
I never understood this approach. Cash seems so inefficient and risky, as compared to using credit or debit or a personal check. You have to lug it around. You never have the right change. You risk losing it or having your pocket picked. The money could be earning interest (granted, not much!) in a bank account somewhere.
Recently, I experienced a nudge to rethink this opposition to cash. We were in the hardware store checkout with grand plans to repaint the basement family room. We had paint, scrapers, stripping compound (nothing to do with exotic dancing), masking tape, the whole nine yards. It came to a grand total of $32.45. She handed the cash over, then I saw it: A bag of mulch in the undercarriage of the shopping cart that had been overlooked.
I cried out, wrestled it onto the checkout conveyor, and the patient clerk rung us up again. Nora reopened her wallet and retrieved another $10 and handed it over. Then I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. It was visible for just a nanosecond, but I’m sure I witnessed the physical manifestation of a psychic struggle at the moment of handover. An unusually long lid closure during a blink, a tightening of the lips. It was as if she was fighting to walk uphill against a strong steady wind.
It wasn’t like she thought we didn’t need it or she resented me for insisting we get the mulch now. And it isn’t that, more generally, Nora is a tightwad. She understands the need to spend money for house maintenance, and our kids’ education, and for the occasional vacation. Especially the vacation.
Then I thought about all the times I was forced to use cash. At the roadside fruit stand. At the last restaurant in town – Samos – that doesn’t take plastic but it hasn’t hurt them because their Greek food is so good. At the neighborhood yard sale. At those times, now that I think about it, I tend to be a lot more price sensitive and reticent about buying much. (Samos, if you can hear me, take note – you could be selling a lot more baklava!) Compare this to when I go to the grocery store, where I always use credit, and I’ll often drop pricey cheese and olives into the cart without batting an eye.
What does the Bible say about all this? Well, I did an exhaustive search and not once did Jesus or his disciples use a credit or debit card! No hits on the term “Bitcoin” either.
Bad jokes aside, this issue is about good stewardship of what you are given – so that you can keep more resources for your family and for your giving. When it comes to money matters, what is more important than that?