Have a humble view of money in a world full of greed – Catholic World Report
The teaching “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt 6:24) encourages us to have a humble view of money. Money is not equal to God, nor should we worship it. However, we must not lose sight of the noble purpose of money. We can use our money to bring glory to God.
Judas was in charge of the treasury of Jesus and the Apostles, and – minus his greed – his duties were noble. He managed the Lord’s fund. Others gave financial support to Jesus and the Apostles. His entourage included Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna “and many others, who supported themselves with their means”. (Luke 8:1-4)
Their money had value because Caesar’s authority and treasury supported its face value. Money is effective. Cash replaces barter. Try paying your employees with Costco chickens for a week. Economic efficiency also enables friendly competition, keeping prices low for consumers but high enough to provide financial support for owners and employees.
Years ago, a young man visited Mexico City and traveled across town to shop at a cluster of small stores. He asked for the price of some handmade goods. The kind owner said, “Fifty pesos. Reaching into her wallet, she interrupted him and said, “Now you say ‘forty pesos,’ and we’ll agree on forty-five pesos.” The young American needed training in the open market.
Before globalization in a small town, the owner of a neighborhood paint store marked up his merchandise by 40%. He took 10% or 20% off the contractors price. He despised pricing gimmicks. It posted the purchase price at $20 a gallon, not $19.99 because the twenty dollar post was more honest. He reduced the displays just to rid the store of old inventory and labeled it as such. It went out of business when Sears opened in a mall with a paint department selling at $24.99 a gallon and now selling at $19.99. But the man ran well and supported his family for some time.
His good friend, Russ, owned a Sylvania TV store in the neighborhood. He had a friendly competitor across the street who was selling Zeniths. When times were tough for the Zenith guy, he sent a few clients his way. Money wasn’t everything, because everyone knew businesses supported families and neighborhoods. An electronics chain drove Russ’ Sylvania establishment and Zenith store out of business.
Boxer Jimmy Braddock knocked out Max Baer for the heavyweight championship in 1935. The Hollywood movie Cinderella Man – for the most part – represents it. Fact Verified (after speaking with a nephew): He reimbursed government welfare authorities for money given to him and his family during the Depression.
We don’t need to treat money as our reason for living.
Money as a false god is nothing new. Judas was a thief and the chief priests knew how to handle greed. Let’s consider some contemporary ways to make god money.
Fraudulent phone calls are annoying and often successful. A TV investigative reporter interviewed a scammer over the phone in Jamaica. Producers disguised his face and voice, and he explained his success in getting money from senior citizens in the United States. The Jamaican said: “Caucasians like free stuff.” (What happened to multiculturalism?)
Few of us are innocent. We constantly demand free products in the market and from the government. (Friendly neighborhood garage sales that remind us that “one person’s trash is another’s treasure” don’t count!) We misuse money through excessive spending: personal and governmental. Credit card debt is at an all time high. Remember when “sounding like a dollar” was a happy cliché?
Many of us are cogs in the machinery of big business who typically misuse money with cutthroat competition, brutally and unfairly pushing others out of business. Decades ago, big beer companies deliberately ruined local breweries for reasons that continue to mystify. Why not make money here, but not there? Spread the market share around. Allow a friendly competitor to have his niche.
When the dollar was strong, a virtuous and frugal person could save for retirement in a credit union without much planning. Now we have no choice but to play the stock market with our savings, hoping that others lose so that we win. Wall Street has become the gambling center of the world.
We have delivered municipalities to rulers who have impoverished the cities. Free stuff. Carefree. People who benefit from their vote can move to another state if a city (like Detroit) goes bankrupt. Federal spending is now out of control, with inflation, economic upheaval and currency devaluation. Where is Caesar – and his gold – when we need it?
We all seem to want free things at the expense of others. Many use the power of money for influence peddling in various forms. According to reports, insider trading is rampant. Government pork barrel spending has been out of control for decades. The national debt is worrying, approaching double the annual GDP.
Money loses its value when it is treated like a false god. But money itself is not the root of all evil. Saint Paul writes: “The love of money is the root of all evil; it is because of this desire that some have strayed from the faith and pierced their hearts with much pain” (1 Tim. 6:10). Unfairly seeking free things is expensive for individuals and society.
Individually, there is little we can do to alter modern economic mechanisms. But our attitudes toward money affect our faith in God. We need a correct perspective on the things of this world that honors justice and recognizes the sovereignty of God. Money serves many noble purposes if used honestly and humbly, taming our appetite for financial abuse and greed.
Job helps: “Naked I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked I will return; the Lord gave, and the Lord took away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
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