On barn building



Anachronism - a person or a thing that is chronologically out of place, especially: one from a former age that is incongruous in the present (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

In past columns, I have admitted to being old. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, as it is a badge that was definitely earned. Now I will admit to it once more.

“Honey, where’s the checkbook?”

How’s that for an anachronism? I might as well ask if the sundial has been changed from daylight saving time.

We used to write a lot of checks. Monthly bills, groceries, gas stations, pretty much any expense incurred. We did this because neither my wife nor I liked to carry cash around, as it was too easy to spend frivolously and without record. We still don’t, and so today we pay for virtually everything by credit card. Sometimes we actually pull out the card and other times we fill in some boxes with the information on a website. At the end of the month, Sherry, my wife, gets the credit card statement, reviews it for accuracy, and then transfers money from our credit union account to the credit card company to pay the bill, bring the balance to zero, and we start all over again.

Back in the old days, checks were the preferred method of payment. We used to carry around checkbooks stuffed inside cheap plastic sleeves. When duplicate checks were offered, the ones with carbon copies (carbon copies?! More proof of old!) of each check written, that was a huge advancement in terms of keeping track of our money. After all, one of us was pretty inconsistent in recording the name of the person or business to whom we wrote a check. Hint – it wasn’t Sherry.

When debit cards were offered, we steered clear of them. All I saw was the problem of not remembering a purchase and then realizing there wasn’t as much in the account as I thought. Using debit cards meant I still had to write things down, but now didn’t have the checkbook register to collect those entries. Receipts would get stuffed in pockets of pants destined for the washing machine or inside a coat pocket that would soon be crowded with car keys and glasses, only to fall out when I went to start the car.

Really, the important thing here was not that I was a profligate spender, but rather that the discipline of recording my purchases was non-existent. More than once did I have to go back into the carbon duplicate checks at the end of the month to reconcile what came out of the checking account.

There’s an old saying that still rings true today, even if the medium is different. If you want to see what’s important to someone, look at his checkbook register.

Variations of that saying actually go back quite a ways. In the 12th chapter of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus addresses a crowd of people and his disciples when he tells them the story of the foolish man who built barns for all his stuff. Recall that he had a great year, and rather than give thanks to God for the enormous blessing he had received, he decided to hoard it all. That didn’t end well for him.

“But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God” (Lk 12:16-21).

Take a few minutes to look at your checkbook register or its modern equivalent. Does it reflect gratitude for the abundance that has been given us by God, or is there an entry for a bigger barn?

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