Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Spirituality of Money -- A Newspaper Column

Several years ago the Bare Naked Ladies mused about what they would do “If I had $1 000 000”. AS I sit down to write this column the Western Canada Lottery Corporation website is advertising possible jackpots of $25 million or $30 million. Their commercials invite you to dream what would be possible if you won the “big money”. Over the next few weeks both the Federal and Provincial budgets will be unveiled. But did you know that all this money talk is a spiritual issue?

In many ways there are few documents more spiritual than a budget. After all, a budget talks about what we think is important, and shows that importance with money and resources rather than just words. And so we have to ask ourselves what our financial decisions say. Do tax cuts show an attempt to favour the rich or an attempt to provide for the poor? Is increased spending a waste of money or an active provision of needed service and support? Do our personal finances focus on our own wants or what is best for the society as a whole? Do we, in fact, put our money where our mouths are?

Note that the answers to these questions are rarely straightforward. There is nothing wrong with watching out for our own needs and wants. There is nothing inherently wrong with being rich. Scripture suggests that wealth can get in the way of following God's Way but Scripture is at best ambivalent on whether it is a sin to be wealthy. At the same time, the Law, the Prophets and the Gospel are clear that being wealthy while your neighbours starve (especially if you become wealthy by taking basic necessities from your neighbours) is a moral problem. Money is morally neutral. It is the choices we make that have moral or ethical value. Scripture always calls us to use what we have for the betterment of God’s whole Creation.

So I took time to think about the question asked in the lottery advertising. (Of course in my case the question is purely rhetorical since you can’t win when you never buy lottery tickets.) What would be the thing to after winning the jackpot?

Some things are obvious. Provide for the girls now and in the future, create education savings for them. Replace both vehicles, pay down the mortgage, take care of some of those “if only” projects around the house and yard, help out our families. But that doesn’t take nearly the amount of money we are talking about here. So what else?

For me some of the “what else” would be to support ministry in various places and ways (inside and outside of the church). Give to worthy causes, nationally and internationally. Do those things that allow people of all sorts of backgrounds find the abundant life that is the hope of us all. Find ways to help pick each other up out of whatever hole we find ourselves in.

But I would also set aside money to support other parts of creation. I would take time to set up a fund for building ultra-high eco-efficient, LEED certified, houses and buildings. I see a fund for a wide range of public and private and public/private projects to improve our ecological quality of life.

And yes, I would happily pay taxes on my taxable income and investments, I would avoid the temptation to find ways to hide that income in tax shelters. Because that is part of how we support each other, part of how we build a better society.

That, in part, is what I would do. What would you do?

Oh and lets be honest. In all our minds part of the answer is given in the end of the song:
If I Had $1 000 000, If I Had $1 000 000
If I Had $1 000 000, If I Had $1 000 000
I'd be rich.

No comments:

Post a comment