I’ve been finding myself getting more and more frustrated lately with how people spend their money. When I hear stories of 2 million dollar church building projects, 50 thousand dollar pothole fundraising campaigns, the 40 billion or so Americans spends on their pets or just watching the local Wal Mart parking lot fill up with people before the sun has crawled its way to our side of the hemisphere I cringe. The typical responses are evoked from me like there are people in third world countries that would be much better off if only you weren’t so selfish. The local homeless shelter needs food before your potholes need to be filled and the list goes on.
The stories are endless. The outrage we all felt when we found out about the AIG bonuses spread quickly and we couldn’t believe anyone would do such a horrendous thing. We all feel ripped off when the government is bailing out major corporations. How dare they waste such a sacred, spiritual, valuable and important part of our lives. And in saying that previous sentence, is where I got the hint that we may have a problem.
If I truely want to hold the view that money cannot impart true and eternal value then how did money all of sudden earn titles such as valuable, sacred, spiritual and important? In our world, money is nothing more than a number on your screen or paper. There is no real value whatsoever in money. We give it all it’s value in how we treat it, how we use it and how we look at it. In looking at it that way, I’m fascinated that money holds such a power in our lives. Somehow all of our value and security comes from numbers and paper.
If this isn’t where our value comes from, if this shouldn’t be where our security, purpose and love comes from then why do I get so angry when its spent improperly? I am learning not to care about the numbers and paper like I used to. By getting angry and vocal about how poorly someone spends their money, I feel like I am only perpetuating a system that puts money on a pedestal as something that should be held with utmost respect and honour. Something I don’t think money deserves.
I have a feeling that this story and this story of Jesus pulling the coin from the fish’s mouth and him talking about paying taxes has a lot to do with how our theology around money should be shaped. Jesus is asked if it is right to pay taxes to Caesar or not and he said to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s. My understanding of this statement is that he could care less about what you do with your money, it’s just inanimate objects that’s only value is the value that we impart to it. However, what you do with yourself is what he is concerned with. Give it to God who cares about all these loose coins and what happens to them.
So I’ve decided (at least for now) that all the injustices that I cry out about over the bad spending of money aren’t as important as I always thought they were. My cry for injustice is more sounding like cries against disrespecting the God of money, a cry I can’t allow be muttered from my lips anymore. If anything, maybe I’ll just be concerned with how we are giving to God’s what is God’s and allow what is Caesars to hang out in the world of Caesar. It sounds better to me than trying to give what is Ceasar’s to God, cause apparently God doesn’t care all that much with what happens to it.
Giving, therefore–dumb, no-reason-for-it unloading of money–remains the only hope of a cure for the disease of money.
Robert Farrar Capon