1 August 2010

Somewhere between the idealism of the Beatles “Cant buy me love” and the cynicism of Pink Floyd’s “Money” lies the conversation that describes much of where we sit and breathe and live

We want to hold on to the values of the Beatles song: I don’t care too much for money, coz money cant buy me love” but we live in a world that encourages us to slide more towards the Pink Floyd song: Money – it’s a gas.  Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash.

It’s the conversation that we’ve begun to hear in earnest over the past couple of weeks and the more discerning ear will hear the same tension over the next 20 days:

We want to hold on to the values of future thinking, common good things that demonstrate that people matter

But we will be pitched to and maybe even swayed, by promises that are about what is good for us now, and what will put something in our pockets. 

It’s a conversation – a tension – that shows the pull that exists  between what we’d like to think and how at times we tend to act.

When I was a solicitor back in the late 1980’s, the firm I worked with did some work for a businessman who had started up a very successful company and then sold it to someone else for just under $100m Around 18 months later, there was just about none of the money from the business sale left. It was all spent.   Gone.

 And when we hear that sort of story, at least if you are like me, we will silently at the waste of such a large amount of money in such a short amount of time. Surely what he should  have done with it is set some aside.   Invested it.   Been responsible.

It’s sort of like building barns to store your great harvest of grain isn’t it?

So the Luke passage is telling us we should be more like this businessman who went through nearly $100m (about $180m in today’s money) in under 18 months and not like someone who has set it aside to be able to live off?

Or what about this story – a church in Sydney CBD – has sold the development rights to the space above and below its church. There are apartments in the space surrounding the church building and with the development costs, the church is unlikely ever again to ever need to worry about offering plates again. Does the Luke passage applaud or condemn that sort of financial planning?

Is it a passage about finances?   Or wealth?  Or possessions?

In a way it is.   But I’m not all that sure it is really about it.

You see the background context to this passage is about the general understanding of the day that possessions in this life was some form of measure of your worth and therefore also a measure of your guarantee of your life beyond this world.

So it is about possessions.   It is about something that we would want to name as greed. But it is about our value as a human. 

This is a passage that invites us to look again at the values that we hold on to both the ones we say we hold on to, and the ones that guide our lives, whether we notice or not.

This is a passage that invites us to think about whether we expend ourselves so much in our occupations and careers that we miss out on the enjoyment in life along the way.

(It’s a passage that invites questions over 30 year mortgages and their demands upon us)  This is a passage that invites us to see what is the relationship between “life” and “happiness”

Is the aim of life to be “happy” – either through products, or security Or do we want to claim that true happiness comes only in service to others If we do, does that then invite us to a life of service because it will make us happy?

This is a passage that sits with us in ways that aren’t completely comfortable. It is a passage that invites us to look at values – whether or not they are about money.

You may know of the ad by Dove that invites us to think, at least partially, on what it is about humans that is of lasting value, lasting beauty,  and what is only passing. That is an ad that is about much more than what makes a person look good.

And the passage is more about worth than happiness. And it points to value, or worth, being found in a life that is “rich towards God.”

The only down side is that it doesn’t then tell us what is a life that is “rich towards God.”

It isn’t a passage that says to be a person of faith you need to vote Liberal, or Labor or contemplate the Greens. It isn’t a passage that says to be a person of faith,

here is what you should do with money as you raise your children. It isn’t a passage that says how much you should be putting in the offering or how much you should be spending on your next holiday.

 It is a passage that pushes us back to an honesty with ourselves and an honesty in our relationship with God.

What else do the gospels tell us about the way that Jesus lived? What do they say about what it might mean to be rich towards God?

Trite and simplistic suggestions about what it means and simplistic formulas about what to do with money Just like simplistic formulas or comments about what are Christian values that political parties should adhere to don’t give this passage or the teachings of Jesus the respect they deserve.

They are things to wrestle with –  And if we end up thinking about it and not changing at all, then I would venture to suggest we probably haven’t thought hard enough.

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