This Post will get added to my ongoing collection of thoughts of Money and the Church.
All my life I’ve been raised that I should never spend money if I don’t have to, always look for a deal and save money for when I’m older. These aren’t necessarily things I learned in a test, but these are values that I picked up from the culture around me. Getting a deal is congratulated. Getting in free or something for free is looked as a sign of superiority. Saving money is a sign of responsibility and commended in all respects. Money is put on this pedestal, and if you have a lot of it you are secure, you can be happy and you made good decisions. I’m just not sure that I buy it anymore.
What is money anyway? This is a question that was asked on one of the latest episodes of This American Life that I found to be some of the best journalism and storytelling of all their episodes. Money is fiction. Money exists in our heads. Money is a value system that we create, destroy and perpetuate depending on how we feel (or how those in powerful positions feel). Money doesn’t even really exist. Nowadays, it’s just ones and zeroes that change every second. Just a number on a screen. This number changes our moods, ruins marriages and generally represents our happiness. Money is powerful because we’ve allowed it to be powerful. So inevitably we allow money to give us security, value and respect.
Now, I don’t look at money so reverently. I get pumped when I hear stories of Claiborne unloading ten thousands dollars on Wall Street. When people disrespect money, I get excited like someone finally gets it. When someone doesn’t follow the rules, it’s like a breath of fresh air. I realize part of me lives it because I love to rebel against authority. However, I can’t help but think that it’s more because money is finally being put in its place.
Christians generally spout of things about being a good steward of what God has given us, which they generally interpret as having a savings account or hunting for a good deal on what you want. Somehow money has become synonymous with blessing and the money that we have in our possession is treated with the utmost respect and reverence. We see being cheap as a virtue. I guess I should have expected the such widespread acceptance of deep cultural values such as the use of money in the church, the church these days is pretty much unrecognizable from the rest of the world.
What I want to suggest is a different use/perspective on money from the church.
As Christians, we believe, like Abraham, Israel and Jesus, that we are blessed to be a blessing. We believe that life is found in dying. We believe that we should spend ourselves on behalf of our neighbour. We believe that our treasure is not in earthly things, but in eternal things. We believe that we should love all and become a servant to all. How does our current way of looking at money exemplify these beliefs at all right now? I don’t think they do. In fact, I think the way we view and use money now is completely contradictory to a Christian worldview.
I’d like to propose three different proposals as to how I think Christians should handle their finances.
1. Focus on Who is Getting our Money Rather than What you Are Getting For Your Money – This means that we are more conscious about where are money goes because we see that every dollar we spend perpetuates a system, whether it’s oppressive or freeing. If we start to shift our focus about where money ends up rather then what we get we open up all sorts of doors that never would have been open before. It becomes a lot easier to be generous. I can give $5 a day to the deaf, blind, mute guy who knocks on my door and care less about if I’m getting a good return on my investment (ie. he is not buying lotto tickets and buying bread instead), and care more that I’m giving it to someone who is asking because they are asking. I then start to be more conscious on the multiple levels of industry that leech onto all products bought and start to make purchases that are more local because you trust, are part of and participate in the local economy. So spending 50-200% more on something isn’t nearly an issue because it’s not about the cost, it’s about who is getting the money. If who is getting the money becomes the most important factor in a decision to spend money, I think we would be become a community who sees the ramifications of our decisions and makes those decisions in light of that.
2. Spend Money, Don’t Save It – As opposed to saving money, I suggest we spend it. Not just spend it to benefit ourselves and for selfish gain, but spend it on behalf of others and to use it for their good. Saving money becomes an obsession and we end up getting our security in what we have accomplished and what we can guarantee for ourselves. We never learn to trust each other. We never learn to depend on something else rather than money. We end up hoarding it, building bigger barns for ourselves all the while people everywhere would benefit from it. We tell ourselves that we’ll do more with it once we’ve grown it and earn some interest. We never do. It’s just a ploy so we don’t have to be generous. I don’t think it’s wrong to spend money. In fact I think it’s good to spend it and spend it well. Taking my first proposal into light, and my third one, I think that spending money is important. Just spend it. Give it away. Stop hoarding. I think as soon as we begin saving, as long as we are holding onto something, we start to lose what being a blessing looks like.
3. Stop Using Money to Fulfill Emotional and Relational Gaps in Your Life – This probably sounds redundant but I think a lot of us do this without thinking. We feel drained, so we need a vacation, so we spend a hell of a lot of money taking us somewhere else so we can relax. We feel down, so we buy something. We feel happy, so we celebrate by spending even more money. Money becomes just a tool to fix or extend a feeling. See money for what it is; a man-made value system that holds no real power rather that what you give it. Learn to fill gaps through other means without needing to spend money just to satisfy whatever longing your feeling.
I’m sure there is more that will come to me. Any that you would add?