Three Lessons About Money from My New Mower

Three Lessons About Money from My New Mower

Recently, my used lawn tractor of five years finally bit the dust. This has been a death long in the making. While I wasn’t exactly surprised, I was annoyed. The biggest annoyance was that I had set aside a specific time to mow my yard, but now I couldn’t complete the job. Or could I?

I remembered that a while back I had purchased a manual push-reel mower. Yes, like the one you saw on ‘Leave it to Beaver’. Determined to finish my yard, I wondered how long it would take me to push mow my 8/10 of an acre. And so, I started pushing.

I’m not saying push mowing your lawn with technology from the 1930’s is the new money hack. But I am saying it confirmed a few ideas I have about life and money.

Lesson #1 You Don’t Need Everything You Think You Do

It took me about twice as long to mow my yard as it does with a riding mower. That sounds like a lot, but when I consider the time I’ve spent maintaining,(or fixing the things I failed to maintain) on the lawn mower, the exercise I now get that I didn’t ‘have the time for’, and the reduced capital tied up in unnecessary equipment (admittedly not that much), that gap gets smaller.

It used to take me just shy of an hour to mow my yard. With the push-reel it took me a little over two.

But guess what?

I got the job done.

Perhaps it was harder, less convenient, more physically intense, but it’s done.

Far too often when it comes to our money we don’t think critically about our purchases because we just assume we need the things we are buying.

We pay the grocery bill and sigh “that’s just what groceries cost”. But have you analyzed your eating habits? Considered bulk purchases, or shopping more often? Have you tried going without stocking cereal or snacks or treats?

We insist we need two cars. But have we tried to go a week without the second? Suggested car pooling to a co-worker? Or had your family drop you off and pick you up at work.

Perhaps these ideas seem silly or inefficient. But in a world that is obsessed with having everything they ‘need’ (read ‘want’) it is as much a culturally defying act as it is a money decision to forego some things that are just easier.

Just a few decades ago nobody had an air-conditioner.

Several decades before that no one had a dishwasher or clothes’ dryer.

And a few decades before that, running water was a rarity.

We adjust so quickly to new technology that it becomes ‘essential’ in less than a generation. Experimenting with foregoing modern conveniences is a kind of ‘material goods fast’, that reveals to us how attached we may be to certain objects in our life and sows gratefulness in our hearts for what we decide to keep.

We need to think critically and not be afraid to challenge the prevailing wisdom of the day. Do we understand our homes and vehicles and appliances and other creature comforts as gifts from God? Or do we feel entitled to them? Could we find some Mission Money in the things that we consider essential but really aren’t? Are there ways of living we are unwilling to change in order to follow Jesus? Are we willing to at least try it out?

Lesson #2 Being Weird is OK

I wave cordially to my neighbors on their zero turn mowers as I happily push my little push-reel back and forth across my lawn. It feels a little embarrassing to be honest. But being weird is OK.

Using the push-reel is not having a financial impact on my life. It’s not really ‘saving me money’, and the money it might be saving me is offset by the extra productive hours it takes.

But it has taught me: there’s nothing wrong with doing things a different way.

I have such a hard time telling people what I do for a living. “Well, I’m a pastor, but I write sometimes and I’m in the financial services space, but sometimes I’m homeschooling my kids.”

I no longer have this nice neat career track where I can equate myself to specific job title that people can instantly understand what I do with 40+ hours of my week. And that’s weird.

It’s weird to not drive your kids all over the state for baseball or hockey.
Its weird to drive old cars that are paid off.

It’s weird to grow and raise your own food.

It’s weird to give part of your income away every month.

But Jesus said the world wouldn’t embrace his followers, they would hate them. He said his followers would live like they belonged to a different world, to an eternal world. (John 15:19)

And that’s going to look weird.

The fact that Christian Financial Advice looks so much like secular financial advice is a huge red flag!

It’s not weird enough. It smacks of normalcy with a religious undertone.

Few people live ‘on mission’. Pointless meandering through life is normal.

Don’t be normal. Get on Mission.  

Lesson #3 Being Efficient is not the Goal

I’ve about had it with people who measure everything based on dollars an hour.

“Well I can make $50/ hour and it costs $30/hour to pay someone to mow my yard so I’m better off paying someone.”

Sure the math works.

But you’re also a human being not a money producing machine.

And sometimes we need to do things the long way to remind us of that.

  • Walking to a meeting instead of driving.
  • Hand washing the dishes instead of plopping them into the dishwasher.
  • Changing your own oil or brakes, or washing your own car.

Actually experiencing the life you are living instead of grinding out an income reminds us that there is more to our life than money.

I have to confess, I hate slow.

But it’s because I know this about myself that I force myself into opportunities where I’m going to have to do the slow work.

Why?

Because that’s how God works.

And if I want to be in tune with Him, I have to be able to pay attention to the slow cultivating work he does in my heart and in my community, like yeast that slowly works its way through dough, or a mustard seed that over decades grows into a tree.

When we measure everything by efficiency, we ignore the humanity of our life.

It’s faster to use the self-checkout, but then I don’t get to ask the grocery clerk how her day is today.

It’s more convenient to use the drive-thru but then I don’t learn the names of the coffee shop employees.

Sure that mega-church is right off the freeway, but will I learn anyone’s name? Will people be praying for me, specifically?

The mission of God is a people-based mission. Our modern lives our based on the efficiency of avoiding people. We interact with machines, we drive alone in our air conditioned cars, pull into our garages, close the door and walk into our air conditioned homes.

If we live our lives efficiently, we will miss the work of God in our lives.

Debrief

I’m not committed to my push-reel mower.

You may drive by my house and see me happily steering a lawn tractor.

Realizing that I could still accomplish the job with what I already had instead of being convinced that I needed something more reinforced some key ideas about Mission Money. Mowing my yard is no longer just a chore, it’s exercise, contemplation, and cultivating gratefulness in my life. The task still gets done, but there are other missional goals I accomplish in the process. I look a little weird, work a little slower and don’t get to other things I ‘should be doing’.

But that’s just like our mission. The mission isn’t about what we accomplish, it’s about who we are.

What about you? What modern ways of living do you forego that help you live on mission or connect with God?