Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Remember the Volvo

Willa the Wagon had seen better days. My old, wrecked Volvo had survived almost an entire year with a no headlights, no a/c and a crinkled hood tethered to the front bumper with bungee cords. Engine sputtering, breaks squealing and grill snarling, Willa made the trek from Athens to Columbus numerous times (during daylight hours only), lasting me months after a wreck that I thought would end her life for good. It’s amazing how the lack of cash gives rise to resolve and innovation.

The burgundy behemoth was around just long enough to join the ranks of Allie the Alero and Addie the Audi, other family cars that had received cutesy, alliterative names from Katy. But with a new job providing ample income and with daylight savings time approaching, it seemed more reasonable to put a down payment on a new vehicle than to give Willa’s jacked-up face a makeover. With that decision, a Honda Civic—Cecelia is her current name, but it’s always subject to change—stepped in as Willa’s prettier, more dependable replacement.

In the days before we bought the new car, I told Katy that if we were going to be spending the money, I wanted to find a way to use the car for God. Something this expensive should be a tool, not just an object for our enjoyment.

The next day, I was talking to a Chinese friend on the Internet, and somehow the new car entered the conversation. When he acted impressed, I was quick to tell him about Willa and how my newfound blessing was the result of my perseverance with my previous junk heap. If I hadn’t been patient and willing to suffer for awhile, I probably wouldn’t have had the money to put up for the new car. There’s a spiritual lesson in that statement alone, but our conversation went deeper.

I then told him my strategy for the car, how I wanted to use it as a tool for God’s work. As if on cue, we struck up a conversation about the poisonous influence of money in our lives, especially as it relates to spiritual things. By telling him some of Jesus’ parables about money, I was able weave the Gospel into our conversation. As the discussion concluded, I realized that the car had started the entire thing. A tool indeed.

Throughout our wealth talk, I wondered what the Chinese word for “miser,” or “cheapskate” is. What my friend, who had also been my Chinese teacher, told me reiterated my love for the vivid imagery of Chinese words and really brought some of Jesus’ parables to mind. Here are two Chinese words to describe a person who hoards wealth:

小氣鬼-Xiao qi gui – literally, xiao means “small,” qi means “internal or life force/energy” and gui conjures the image of a “ghost, devil or spirit.” Put together, at least in my eyes, they paint the picture of a hollow shell or faint image of a person with little magnanimity; someone whose love for wealth has robbed them of the capacity for compassion and life.

守財奴 -Shou cai nu – Lit. keep, wealth, slave, respectively. Someone who is enslaved by their desire to keep wealth; a miser who, as my teacher puts it, is controlled by money.

Jesus recommended storing our treasures in heaven and not putting so much stock in what have here on earth. If we can use our talents as tools, maybe we won’t end up like the wicked servant thrown out into the darkness, or like the arrogant man whose life was demanded of him after he built bigger and bigger barns but was “not rich toward God.” Don’t become a ghost or a slave for a little cash, or even a car.

Remember the Volvo, Trevor. Always remember the Volvo.

1 comment:

Newman said...

Farewell Willa. May you continue your stealthness at night and bring headaches and dizziness with your fumes to future drivers.