The greatest example of being a human being, Jesus, talked more about money than any other subject in the entire Gospel. “You can either serve God or money.” is how he is remembered in the canonized Bible saying it. And just to get it straight, Paul wrote to young Timothy, “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” Now I have realized that money in and of itself is not evil. Money basically is a contract between two or more parties, some piece of paper representing some set amount of worth. Which leads me to my first question: Who gives worth to people, places, and things anyhow?
“You will be like gods…” was the original temptation and sin, and we human beings love to manage good and evil very much so… and look where it’s gotten us today in our society of fear and technological safety precautions. Wendell Berry, farmer and author, wrote an apocalyptic article in Harpers magazine recently. In it he wrote, “To recover from our disease of limitlessness, we will have to give up the idea that we have a right to be godlike animals, that we are potentially omniscient and omnipotent, ready to discover “the secret of the universe.” We will have to start over, with a different and much older premise: the naturalness and, for creatures of limited intelligence, the necessity, of limits. We must learn again to ask how we can make the most of what we are, what we have, what we have been given.”
My boss at work states in every other sentence, “Bottom line, bro” and his bottom line apparently is money. More! More! More! But money making is only a means not an end. So what is the end purpose of man and the gift of the natural world around us? I am beginning to believe it is to love, to serve God and others. Whatever that may mean for each finite creature do it and be satisfied: shovel dirt, drive a truck, work out that math problem, mow the lawn, etc. “He who has been faithful with little will be faithful with much.” And would we honestly want it any other way? What good is knowledge and power if one has no wisdom in using the good gift from God?
Money talks. No doubt. As does blonde hair, big boobs, a skinny waist, and a round bottom. But any sane person knows if the Barbie is a mere lifeless doll, it is not love as it was designed, it is lust. It is the pervert who ruins a good gift of sex. Money too is pornographic. Lust as Frederick Buechner defines “is the desire for salt from someone who is dying of thirst.” “For those who reject heaven, hell is everywhere, and thus is limitless. For them, even the thought of heaven is hell.” warns Wendell Berry in his ‘Faustian Economics Hell hath no limits’ article.
Jesus tries to help us out on this side of eternity by asking, “What profits a man if he gains the world but loses his soul?”
What is the end of man? To merely work and make more money? Obviously not. My faith resonates with Frederick Buechner: it is gratitude and enjoyment. G.K. Chesterton pitied an atheist for he realized they had no one to thank for the good gifts of life: food, sex, friendship, hobbies, nature, etc. etc. etc.
There is a bumper sticker slogan driving around on the back of cars, “He who dies with the most toys wins.”
Again, last question, I swear, “Wins what?”
(Watch the love of money acted out in recent films: There will be Blood and No Country for Old Men.)