“I am the LORD, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed.”
–Malachi 3:6 (NLT)
One afternoon many years ago, my wife Stephanie was out shopping at the mall with her mother when Mom decided to get her wedding ring cleaned. My wife was also wearing a pretty ring, which the sales associate commented on.
“Is that diamond ring from our store?” she asked.
“No,” my wife replied. “I got it at the dollar store.”
Just for the record, though, that wasn’t the ring I gave her, and I don’t know whether the sales associate hurried out to get one or not. All I can say, though, is that she needs to learn to appraise jewelry more accurately.
Believe it or not, there are at least two parallels between the days of the Gold Rush and that great American institution called the dollar store. Oh, don’t take my word for it. Why don’t you walk into one with me? I can guarantee it won’t be a long trip, because as far as I’m concerned, shopping trips rank right up there with the bubonic plague. For me a long time in the store is, say, about 5 minutes at the most. You will often find wall-to-wall people at these stores who drive me crazy, and all of them are in shopping mode mania.
While you can indeed find some great values at the dollar store, to be sure, it is my experience that it often pays to be wary. You can either come up empty-handed, or the next thing to it. For example, say you were looking to buy some dish soap. Your $1 find might look like a great value on the surface, but when you get it home the bottle turns out to bee half-full of air, and you wish you hadn’t bought it. So just as many people in Gold Rush days spent fruitless hours panning for gold, we can waste the same amount of time today trying to uncover diamonds at the dollar store.
There is something else we need to think about, however. Just as the Gold Rush died out, it is the same way with the dollar store. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but these stores are fast becoming $5-or-less stores. This might be tolerable if the values of the products were increasing as well, but we all know that isn’t happening. So my question is: where will it stop?
Let’s go back to that later, though, as we take a brief look at what the Bible says about God’s riches in comparison to those at the dollar store. Bringing Him into the equation provides a standard from which we can navigate through life.
To live life from a divine perspective, we need to saturate ourselves in His Word. God’s book tells us of someone who is all-powerful, and unlike the dollar store, He has resources that we can’t even imagine.
Scripture allows us to see God’s unlimited riches in the creation of the universe. When God created the world, some kind of primordial blob didn’t just happen to evolve, as some people have suggested. The Hebrew text makes it clear that God created the world out of nothing. This means that according to the biblical record, there wasn’t a big bang which came out of nowhere. Nothing means nothing. Rather, the text tells us that a loving and personal God fashioned a perfect world.
We see anything but perfection now, though, because you and I and the rest of humanity have messed His creation up through sinful disobedience.
That leads us to the story of how Christ left everything to become our redeemer. The Bible teaches us that although Christ dwelt with God the Father before time began, He left the heavenly riches we spoke about, where He didn’t want for anything. The Bible goes on to say that He came down to dwell among us in poverty. In this state, he was cold and hungry, and he didn’t have an earthly home. Again, there is no comparison between the unlimited riches which Christ left for you and me, and a dollar-store mentality, which leads to dollar-store prayer.
Having said that, I would like to share a song with you which is a great example of this kind of prayer. Here, Janis Joplin gives us a picture of God which all of us can carry around in this fast-paced world if we’re not careful.
“Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends,
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?”
A dollar-store prayer is a cheap request in which we rush into and out of God’s presence, viewing Him presumptuously. To underscore what I’m saying, here’s another example. If you’ve ever watched or listened to Christian TV, you have more than likely heard long and drawn-out appeals for funds. Now we may be talking about a small percentage of people who do this, but to my way of thinking, it is sickening, and it’s just not right. But I don’t want to get off on that subject, except to make a few comments here.
To me, some of these preachers make God sound like He’s on the verge of bankruptcy, or He’s a gini you can summon by rubbing the proverbial magic lamp.
Scripture talks about God’s good gifts coming to those who wait on Him, but The Bible also speaks about the fear of God. This does not mean that we need to be afraid of Him, however, because the Bible says that God is love. Having the fear of God simply means that you are afraid of displeasing Him, and you take precautions against this occurring.
But I think that all of us can be prone to the dollar-store mentality if we’re not careful, and because of that, we forget that our real diamonds are in heaven. So why not spend a little less time shopping at the dollar store, and see this as a real challenge to get to know God better?
Lastly, unlike the dollar store, the Bible lets us know that God will never change. Since one of life’s constants is change, this message provides both reassurance and hope. Because of this, we can rely on the fact that God remains in control, even when life gets chaotic. This stable anchor and the knowledge that all things are possible with God offers the hope we need in order to face life’s conquests.
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870.
Finally, you’re always welcome to join our Tuesday night Bible study. These studies are conducted by conference call, and they take place at 5:30 PM Arizona time. Our conference number is 712-432-6498. When prompted, press 1 for live chat rooms, and we’ll be waiting in room 31. You can press pound to bypass our friend Sharon’s intro message once you’ve entered room 31. We hope to talk with you soon!
If you have questions, comments or prayer requests for Timothy or Stephanie Burdick, please call 507-369-6861.