Bills to Pay

(27)  Which of you can add a single hour to his lifespan by worrying?  — Matthew 6:27

The other day I needed to pay my cell phone bill.  Now my usual procedure is to go to the carrier’s web site, put in all the relevant data and pay my bill.  This can take as little as a couple of minutes, and with Murphy’s law in full swing it shouldn’t take more than five.

Well, things didn’t work that way.  I got all the information entered, but in order to confirm the payment I have to retype my password.  I did, pressed the “finish” button, and it immediately came up saying “Wrong password.”  Now that was the password I had signed into their site with, so it had to work, didn’t it?  I tried again.  “Wrong password.”  I changed my password and confirmed it.  “Wrong password.”  No way was I going to get to pay the cell phone bill.

By now I’m muttering imprecations at the computer which is performing clearly impossible and also hopeless stupid acts.  I am angry with the company’s customer service department and all of their web developers who should have made this work correctly every time.

I got on the phone and quickly got stuck in one of those machine loops—you know the type.  You want to talk to a human, but you’re in some kind of universe in which the word “human” has no meaning.  You’re not in Kansas (or Florida) any more.  “Invalid input” announces the telephone.  Finally I punch enough keys and it hangs up on me, so I have to try again.

Now I get into the “elevator music” universe.  This is that special universe in which people play music that was invented to annoy callers and you suspect no real person ever listened to, while simultaneously telling you there are no customer service representatives available and that your call is very important to them—a contradiction if I ever heard one.

As it gets closer and closer to the time for that poor customer service representative to come on the line, you know, the one who is going to have to hear me explain the facts of life, the universe, and everything, the thought suddenly breaks through my very annoyed mind:  The person who answers the phone has nothing whatsoever to do with you being frustrated!

I let myself calm down, and easily made my payment via the phone.

Now what does this have to do with worrying?  Worrying is a waste of our time and our mental energy.  As Jesus pointed out, it doesn’t accomplish anything.  It doesn’t produce money to pay the bills.  It doesn’t make the car run or your boss like you.  It doesn’t do a thing except occupy time and waste your energy.  Similarly, anger and frustration simply waste time.

Each of these things has a good counterpart.  Worry’s counterpart is wisdom and good planning.  There are good and bad types of anger.  Anger that focuses you on an appropriate task and an appropriate target for an appropriate reason can help you act quickly and effectively.

But Jesus is pointing out that we can waste our energy accomplishing nothing, just as all the anger I expended on my phone and my computer, though fortunately not on the very nice customer service representative, didn’t accomplish a thing.

Perhaps if we focus our thoughts and emotions on things of the kingdom, we will find ourselves accomplishing much more.

(8)  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honest, whatever is righteous, whatever is lovely, whatever gives a good report, if there is any virtue or any praise, think on these things. — Philippians 4:8

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