Jeremy Myers: The problem with keeping receipts

Toward the end of every month, I receive a “special” document in my church mailbox requiring my attention.

It is a credit card statement for my church expense card. Various items on the document will have been highlighted by the church business manager, thus indicating action is required on my part. Each highlighted item represents a receipt I have to that point failed to submit to validate a purchase.

I must confess, I do not enjoy this particular task. This is due in large part to the fact I am not super great at holding onto receipts. I struggle to keep track of all of the little scraps of paper over the course of the month. No matter how I try to carry my receipts, it always results in an uncomfortable and inconvenient mess. Carrying all of the receipts in my wallet causes it to become bloated and makes it uncomfortable and awkward to keep in my pockets.

Attempts to store my receipts on my desk result in an unsightly mess I constantly have to shift and shuffle to keep in order and out of the way.

It’s crazy that such a small thing should create so much discomfort. That such small scraps of paper should become such heavy burdens is comical. It’s also extremely unnecessary.

The solution to my monthly struggle is quite simple. Rather than holding onto all of my receipts, I need to turn them over and let them go as soon as possible. There is actually no need or value in waiting until all of the receipts stack up and I’m forced to deal with them. I can simply place them on my business manager’s desk at my earliest convenience and walk away. In truth, all of the discomfort and inconvenience is a monster of my own making.

As I was sorting through and searching for receipts for the most recent credit card statement, lamenting the misery of the moment, it got me thinking about another kind of receipt and the damage done by holding onto them.

In recent years, the concept of keeping receipts has developed a new meaning. It refers to the practice of remembering and holding onto wrongs done to us by others in order that we might one day pay them back. These mental and emotional receipts validate a “purchase” that was made and are intended to ensure that those wronged get what they deserve.

If we’re honest, most of us would have to admit we have or currently are carrying some of these social receipts. We remember that friend who betrayed us. We remember that family member who didn’t follow through on a promise. We remember that person who mistreated us. We’ve kept the receipts and look forward to the day when they get what they paid for.

But who is it that is really most harmed through this practice? Once again, it is a monster of our own making that results in us carrying extra baggage that causes discomfort and inconvenience to us and often to those around us.

Jesus addressed this issue several times throughout his earthly ministry, most notably in Matthew 5:38-48. In these verses, Jesus notes that the way of the world is to hold onto the hurts with intent to repay the wrong. The way of the world is an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

The way of Jesus, however, is to turn the other cheek. According to Jesus, the only “receipts” we have the right and responsibility to carry are the debt of love we owe to all people, even those who have wronged us.

What receipts are you carrying today? I know I have my own in my proverbial back pocket. By keeping these receipts, however, we’re only making a bigger mess for ourselves. Rather than keeping receipts and holding onto past hurts and wrongs, we need to make a regular practice of clearing accounts. We need to learn to turn our hurts and anger over to God in order that we might receive and share his love.

Whatever receipts you’ve kept, I pray that God gives you the strength and grace to let them go so that you might walk in peace and freedom.

The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at Send comments to [email protected].