It is often said that money is the root of all evil . . . But that is misquoted. Money is inanimate. It has no power of its own. Power comes from the people who wield it. They use it in many different ways because people come in all stripes: good, bad, kind, selfish, thoughtful, foolish, arrogant, charitable . . .
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (King James Version)
Over the course of my life, I have done a lot of thinking about money. I worked for years as a grant writer for a theological school. I requested funds from foundations and interacted with donors who wanted to contribute to our mission of preparing people for the ministry. More recently, while under-employed (see my post from September 26, 2014 “The Face of Genteel Poverty”), I read some interesting things about money.
Martin Luther, 1483–1546, thought that both economic extremes are dangerous:
The rich despise God’s Word, imagining that they need neither God nor His Word. The poor say: How can I take an interest in the Word, how obey and follow it? I am poor, I must have something to eat and to drink. . . (What Luther Says: An Anthology compiled by Ewald Plass, Concordia, 1959. Volume 1, page 435.)
When you love or lust after money it is all you can think about. When you are very poor money is often all you think about because you are consumed with worry about whether you will be able to pay your bills or have money to buy food. Poverty can lead to desperate actions that would never be considered under other circumstances.
As we were leaving work the other day, a co-worker told me that she had just had a horrible conversation with a wealthy person who was rude and arrogant. She then made the generalization that wealthy people are all rude and arrogant. I asked her what she thought about poor people. She said, “they have hearts of gold.” I replied that in my experience people are people: there are wealthy people who are generous and poor people who are mean-spirited. Generalizations are easy, but almost always wrong.
I don’t like to bash wealthy people because I am the recipient of many things that wealthy people have created or endowed. Beyond that, I’ve never gotten a job from a poor person before. Poor people can’t afford to hire someone else. Money, like many things in life, is a tool. Whether it is used for good or for abject evil depends on who is using it. Good people with money can make incredible blessings happen. Take a little time to think about that.
I have often benefited from the fiscal kindness of others in my life. Ordinary people who have been willing to offer a loan, or treat us to a meal, or a company willing to let us pay over a set time without interest. We have had to curtail many activities because our funds for gas for the car were limited. During the entirety of my daughter’s college years, we have been so strapped financially that I have never been able to give my daughter a gift of money. I could never assist her with travel expenses. I could never send the unexpected $20 tucked into a sweet note like my mom used to occasionally send me to do something fun like have lunch out with a friend. My husband and I have continued to donate to charity, but in meager amounts that have been few and far between. There were times when friends and family needed financial help, and we could not step up to the plate because of our own indebtedness and lack of sufficient income.
So now, that I have work again, my husband and I have devised a schedule to get out from under debt and build up some savings. It is amazing what that feels like. It is the path to freedom. Already we no longer need to fear surviving the next round of bills. As our debt decreases our freedom will increase and with that freedom the ability to make charitable gifts to worthy organizations and be more substantial agents of kindness to others as so many have been to us.