Jesus vs. Empire – or, How I Almost Bought a Car.

It was so easy. I need a car – don’t I deserve a nice car? I can afford it, can’t I? Of course I can.

Maybe I should step back a little.

The story really starts 2 weeks ago, when Will, my carpool buddy, handed in his two-week notice. Suddenly I was rideless to a fairly well-paying job in Delta, about an hour away from where I live. With no car, I was going to be out of work – finding something for minimum wage in Abbotsford, or being completely unemployed for at least a while. With plans in the works to move to Vancouver, I realized that this just couldn’t be the case. I was going to need to find a car somehow. The job was too perfect to give up – a great transition job for supporting us over the summer and into next year.

I looked for other people to carpool with, but on Friday afternoon all of my options fell through. That was yesterday. Today, I headed to the dealerships to see what was available. First stop was Ford – a peppy little Fiesta, not too old, a pretty car, and pretty cheap too. Too small though, with almost no leg room in the back and really, just not my thing. Next stop was VW.

I love VWs. The new Golfs are awesome, and they were having a sale day, lots of buzz and excitement. I also love the idea of a diesel – 900 kms to a 60 dollar tank of gas! I test drove a 2012 TDI, and it was awesome. I loved it. I knew it was expensive, but I had never gone down the new car route, and so I thought I would pursue financing and see what would happen.

I’ve only been working at my job for 3 weeks, I thought that I would definitely need a cosigner or something. Amazingly, they approved me, no questions asked. I couldn’t decide to be happy or petrified. THEY want to give ME 30,000 dollars for a new car? ridiculous! Apparently I’ve managed to have great credit, somehow.

The TDI turned out to be too expensive, so we looked at other options. We found a nice VW rabbit, not too fancy, for close to 20,000. Not bad, I figured. We looked at financing, and it seemed possible – only 170! (bi-weekly, they would say quickly). We thought, yes, we could do this!

Then the upsale started. ‘Well, why would you get a four-year-old vehicle for 170, when you could get a brand-new 2012 gas Golf for 199? Seems good, right?’ It did. We were still not sure though… and then the iPad came out. Brand new iPad 3, still in the box. And a free tank of gas. And 90 days no payments. And Zero money down. We could literally drive the $28,000 car off the lot, no questions asked for 90 days, based on my 15-dollar an hour salary.

And we wonder why our economy is in trouble.

It seemed so good. So many perks. So much sweet-talk, by very well-meaning people. it’s only 199! you can afford this! you could work some extra overtime! My wife hadn’t let go of the iPad since it appeared.

I started doing math. Over and over again. It made sense, today – my job pays pretty well, our rent is cheap… but this isn’t about today, this is about 94 months. 8 years. 8 years of 400 dollars a month. And yet, we said yes.

We moved to the next stage, financing. By now, my unease was growing, a rock in my gut hardening. This was normal, the financing agent told me. Everyone goes through this. don’t worry about it, you deserve this! You can afford it! The feeling in my stomach got worse. Carlye was sending me worried glances – she could tell I was uncomfortable.

Suddenly, the 400 a month began to grow. warranty packages – the price grew from 202 to 215 (biweekly). Somehow that 13 dollars was the tipping point. my whole body felt tense and upset – God began to yell at me. This wasn’t right. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it wasn’t right. I then began to think about insurance, about fuel – big factors.

I excused myself to the washroom, and washed my face. This wasn’t me.

I wanted to be the guy who could have a regular steady job, a nice car, a nice apartment. I like Nice Things. and Empire, in the guise of a car company, promised me that I could have them – that I deserved them.

I am not that guy. It’s simply not me. I realized that if I signed that final piece of paper, if I said Yes to Empire, I would be saying No to Christ. I would be saying Yes to making life decisions based on whether I could make my car payments, rather than saying Yes to making life decisions based on where Christ leads my wife and I. Want to go to Thailand for a year? too bad, car payments. Want to live simply among the poor? Too bad, car payments.

The question wasn’t whether I needed a car or not – the question was whether I would practice what I preach when the rubber hits the road. Would I pamper myself, while claiming to love the poor? Or would I deny the god of Self, give up what I ‘deserve’, and trust that God would provide?

Before signing the final line, knowing that my job was on the line, I said no. I said sorry for wasting their time (it was now 8:00 – we had been there since noon), and I said no. Carlye put the iPad back on the table, a little remorsefully. Empire did not understand. It still doesn’t. They actually gave us the car, risk free, for 48 hours. They’re convinced we’ll change our minds. We won’t.

I called my family after the ordeal was over. My wife and I were exhausted. I talked to my brother on the phone – my financially clever, and incredibly generous brother. He offered us his old car, at zero percent interest, paying what we can when we can. I almost cried. This was Christ – this was the Kingdom. This was everything that the Empire was not. And Christ, the gentleman that he is, waited until I came to my own realizations before offering me His plan. I needed to choose the Kingdom before the Kingdom could choose me.

I’m not saying that everyone should give up buying cars. I am saying that everyone should be wise in their purchasing, and battle between the self and God. Everyone should understand that Empire is attractive – that leaving the Kingdom path does not come in giant leaps, but in small steps towards ‘independence’. The Kingdom is interdependent and communal. The Kingdom is not independent and financial.

Today God empowered my wife and I to choose the Kingdom, to choose His way over my desire. It is the harder path. It is the more uncomfortable path. It is the path less traveled. It is the true and best path. I encourage you to choose it as well.


7 thoughts on “Jesus vs. Empire – or, How I Almost Bought a Car.”

  1. This is an important thing to realize I think. Kait and I have been down this road before.

    “Why don’t we just forget this school thing and move home and buy a NEW Volvo instead? C’mon at 0% financing, it would actually be cheaper!”
    “This is a beautiful condo, wouldn’t it be awesome to live here? Why waste money on rent when we could put it toward owning something? Real estate only increases in value right?”

    Man, I’m so glad we eventually said no. I can’t imagine living the way we do now if we had $1800 a month in condo payments or even a few hundred in car payments to deal with. It’s bad enough with a dog (who we love by the way). It’s hard to be flexible when you’re tied to a payment.

    What’s YOUR definition of freedom?

    PS – Mine is going to Thailand for a year.

    PPS – I have to tell myself every day that I don’t NEED a new iPhone…and when I decide that I DO need one, I tell my wife, she reminds me that I don’t need one and I remember that Jesus would probably still be rocking a StarTAC

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