by Tom Wacaster
The HealthCare.gov website tells its visitors that until your deduction is met, you are responsible for all costs relating to doctor visits, hospital stays, or any other medical expense. In that context, “out of pocket” means all expenses not paid by someone else, come out of your pocket; hence, “out-of-pocket expenses.”
On the world wide web of information, a search for this three-word-phrase, “Out-of-pocket” produced some interesting results. I learned, for example, that a primarily American meaning of “out-of-pocket” means to “be unavailable.” That usage of the phrase dates back to 1908 where the words were used to speak of someone who was inaccessible, and thus “out of pocket.” The Oxford English Dictionary traces “out-of-pocket” (with the hyphens) when used as a noun or adjective to an 1885 law journal: “The plaintiffs incurred various out-of-pocket expenses.” Then there is the American Slang Dictionary (not to be confused with The Dictionary of American Slang), which defines “out-of-pocket” as “out from under someone’s control; not manageable.” One might say, “That guy is wild! Completely out of pocket!” Other similar uses of the word “pocket” might include: “To live in each other’s pockets” means to be a little too close, or to spend too much time together. Then there is the politician who is in someone’s pocket in order to line his own pocket with financial gain. My mama used to tell me that the quarter I got for allowance was “burning a hole in my pocket”; not literally, but figuratively, meaning that I was overly anxious to spend it.
Now that I have taken a cursory look at some of the various slang uses of the phrase “out-of-pocket,” let me get down to the reason for writing this article. I have been extremely busy moving from one house to another, the reason not being all that important. Along with my other responsibilities, my writing has suffered somewhat. What little time I could squeeze in for writing has been put toward completing the second volume of a two volume commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. So, I have truly been “out-of-pocket.” While it is true that I have had some expenses incurred in that move that are “out-of-pocket,” the entire ordeal has kept me “out-of-pocket” so far as my writing is concerned. I hope to do somewhat better in the weeks ahead; but then again, being “out-of-pocket” for one reason or the other is often beyond my control.
Being “out-of-pocket” is not all that bad. It gives us the opportunity for a little rest and relaxation. Unfortunately multitudes of lukewarm brethren have been “out-of-pocket” for longer than we can remember. They have neglected their attendance (Heb. 10:25), and failed to worship as they should (John 4:24). The longer they neglect their spiritual responsibilities, the greater the danger that they will reach that point where the heart grows cold and beyond reach of the Gospel. Those who have become negligent in their spiritual duties may have soothed their conscience in thinking that they are just temporarily “out-of-pocket,” while in reality they have placed themselves in a most precarious situation. Eventually the Judgment Day will arrive, and they will learn too late, that when it comes to that inevitable time when we will stand before God and give an account (2 Cor. 5:10) there will be no such thing as simply being “out-of-pocket.”