I have a friend Chloe* who was extremely thrifty & stingy. She counts every penny and couldn’t even let go of thirty cents. (US$0.30). Whenever we went out for a coffee with our friends (two other girls), the three of us would treat each other to some goodies, but we would never do this for Chloe, because Chloe seemed to focus on people who always treated her preferentially by giving her treats or favors.
On several occasions, we shared a cab fare and she contributed around NT$20 more than the rest of us. Instead of absorbing the expense, she would list that down as our debt to her, while the rest of us would have just let it go and enjoyed the favor of being treated the next time around. In short, her scrooginess always disrupted our enjoyment of the evening. We knew there were more important things in life that deserved our appreciation, but she didn’t seem to know that.
One time, I asked her to come with me to meet a guy from another country who was a “first-timer”. In my mind, I thought I should give him a treat, since he was new and just started working. I thought of myself as a “Big Sister”, since I have already been working for three years, and I had more money. So, I paid for all our drinks in the end. Chloe was really surprised and told me that I never did such a thing to her before. I told her that I do this for certain people on occasion, but in my mind, I was thinking, “but maybe not for you”.
Even her own friends didn’t feel generous towards her.
Many other times, she made public, verbal commitments to buy something from someone else, such as a sofa or a scooter, or to share some expenses with others (i.e. her roommates). But at the last minute, she would back out, saying the price was too high, or that she would rather save her money instead. As a result of her vacillation, other people were forced to accept greater expenses, rather than forfeit the whole enterprise.
For example, the man who had agreed to sell the scooter to her, had to, instead, sign it over to his roommate at a fraction of the cost, because he was leaving the country the next day. Neither that man nor his roommate, were happy about that, and Chloe seemed to remain ignorant of her transgression.
My point here is that her attitude was focused on money so much, that her problems got extremely worse than her stinginess.The more she displayed such an attitude, the more it developed into a bondage or stronghold.
For example, later on, I heard from some mutual acquaintances, that several other people I didn’t know had failed in their financial transactions with her. It seemed that people began to recognize her habit of being scroogy and unsteady, and they deliberately cut her out, in order to secure a solid deal.
Hearing this made me quite sad, because I really cared for her as a friend. In fact, she believed in Christ as a result of our friendship, so I felt somewhat responsible for not helping her more. I’ve always wanted her to know that there are certain small events in life that are more meaningful and worthy of experiencing, in exchange of money. On the other hand, I know that everyone of us has our own struggles within our hearts and this is hers.
Recently, Chloe lost her job and I’ve heard that she has been struggling even more, being in a state of financial instability, but I believe that God is still working on her about this stronghold.
* Names have been changed to protect the ignorant!
Story contributed by JLRP.
This story brings new meaning to the old Biblical adage, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31;). And I think this rings true in this case, too. Note that people responded to Chloe in much the same manner as she treated others. As long as we remain in true fellowship, or even just sharing a mutual agreement on something with a common purpose, each person’s strongholds, good or bad, tend to wear off onto the others. That’s why it’s important to choose friends who can have a positive influence on us, and not a negative one.
As seen here, our actions affect the actions of others, but it’s important to realize that the power is not in the actions themselves. It’s in the SPIRIT of the action – and this is a key point that we need to consider in every area of our lives. It’s why “good intentions” don’t suffice. Chloe may conscientiously have had good intentions to use her money wisely, which is truly important, but she neglected the spirit of generosity and servanthood, and reviled the spirit of fellowship in the execution.
Likewise, people learned to respond to Chloe in a similar spirit. It is easy to see here, why her “faithful diligence in finance” brought her cursings instead of blessings. In fact, Chloe’s root sin is not greed, but a form of gluttony that demands formal and exact transactions to feed the ego. If Chloe’s egotistical conditions cannot be met, then she invariably rejects the choice and preserves her satiety. But this kind of soul-food costs Chloe her social security.
When we are spiritual babies, we can do nothing but respond to the spirits we are exposed to. Making ourselves do what is right, only because it is right, and not because we believe in it, will have limited effects, and it will come across as cold, hollow and hypocritical to others. Making efforts to change our actions or habits, without first addressing our spiritual state, will only abrade our will power and fatigue our emotions. If continued, the heart will rebel. But as we cultivate a sensitive awareness of our own spiritual odor, we gradually learn to make efforts to instigate and broadcast an appropriate SPIRIT for each occasion; one that instills an obedience that resonates through our whole being, and brings salt and light into the lives of those around us. This is the Holy Spirit in us!
Interestingly, Chloe’s “Christian” friends (???) are just as guilty as Chloe, because they allowed her spiritual ignorance to go unchecked. In fact, by excluding Chloe from the same treatments of generous fellowship usually shown to others (even to strangers, such as the newcomer), they actually enforced Chloe’s stronghold, leaving her spiritually isolated, and feeling rejected.
Recall that the speaker admits her guilt after Chloe’s condition worsened, expressing it as “sadness”, but the speaker is equally ignorant of her own share of responsibilities, because she states,
“God is still working on (Chloe) about this stronghold.”
On the surface, this statement may sound like a statement of faith, but it’s actually a veiled expression of contempt and condemnation on Chloe’s transgressions. She even expresses carelessness and hopelessness by saying,
“…everyone of us has our own struggles within our hearts and this is hers.”
So in effect, the speaker is excusing her poor response to Chloe by deposing a rationalization, falsely believing she is exonerated.
It is also worth noting that conflicts and sufferings can only help us mature if we are aware of these things. We see that Chloe’s sufferings continue, but she is not learning from her mistakes or maturing, because everyone treats her the same way that she treats them, (which is contrary to scripture!) Chloe is unaware of what she is doing and what is happening to her. She needs to learn how to put aside the false notions that supercede her discernment, and Chloe’s FRIENDS need to start BELIEVING in her, and in God, by giving her the loving fellowship that is necessary to open her eyes to her true spiritual state. It is doubtful that Chloe will wake up to her condition anytime soon, without the support of a GENUINE Christian fellowship.