Living Faithfully with Money: Is it Possible?

I often wonder about the line from the group Abba: “Money, money, money/ Must be funny/ In the Rich Man’s world”. For the poor farmer who interrupted me during worship so that I could explain why the returns from rice production continued to drop while the output had increased and more rice was then exported than any other time, it was not funny. If money was funny in this situation, it was when people had to purchase tyres with a rice bag full of the local currency. Money was worthless and scarce for the many living in penury. Yet, among these very poor people much joy and happiness overflowed.

I am struck how little I thought then of pension, owing a property and other material provisions. In my present context anxiety has taken over with numerous bills to pay and a cash machine that informs me that I may need an overdraft. And do not even bother to mention all those things one is led to believe that one needs, and at the same time having to listen and read from the media about the latest mind-boggling payout to some!

Money may be “funny” for some people. For others, they just want to strike it rich. Just check out the percentage of people who will play the lottery with the hope of making money or more money! We all wish we had more money than we presently have: for more money means freedom or independence or self worth; it will open the world, remove anxieties and will make us happier. So we are led to believe. It may not be wise to ask the rich whether this is true – as becoming rich is no guarantee that the desire for more ends there. Personal happiness has become big business in spite of wealth. Which is the world’s happiest country, do you think?

The borderland between faith and money has not been a comfortable place to live: mammon still competes with the Divine for the loyalty of even the most devout. The message from religious institutions, that “the love of money” distracts the faithful from what is most important, while administering millions of pounds can sound hypocritical. Talk about money is easily “dumbed down”, except “give us some of yours.” Many will agree that our society is heavily materialistic, valuing products more than people and that “greed is still a distortion of the ways of God”. Yet, only a few of us seem able to decide when enough is enough. Greed may be a distortion, but how often do we see that it is wrong to want more money than we need.

The prevailing culture wants us to believe that money is value free. Even if money is a neutral medium of exchange it does become something morally positive or negative, and something spiritually liberating or destructive because of the ways we use and misuse it. We need to make the connections between our faith, moral choices and the implications for our economic life – the whole of life. Then faith ought to make a difference to the ways in which we conduct our financial affairs. For, the bottom line is: where our treasure is, there will our heart be also.”

© copyright March 12, 2010

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