As someone who writes about money, I might be expected to check my conscience at the door. After all, one cannot pursue both virtue and money, right?
The easy reply is that it’s not money, but the love of money, that is the root of all evil. So as long as you don’t love it, you’re okay.
The problem with that reply is the failure to acknowledge that it’s easy to love the stuff.
Its attractiveness is understandable. After all, together with time, money is one of our very most powerful resources. But whereas time can only be saved, money can be both saved and acquired, so it has an extra way of captivating us.
Reflections on the Christmas Narrative
Christmas is two days away, in case you didn’t know (or have kids counting down the days for you)! 🙂 Thinking about it, the Christmas narrative is instructive in regard to money.
Among disclosing many other lessons, it reveals that God came among us in poverty. If the King of Kings didn’t reign in earthly splendor, money surely does not hold the exalted position which it is often thought to hold in our world.
That said, despite the meager conditions of Jesus’ birth, someone did own the manger. Someone did provide the swaddling clothes. Likewise, throughout Jesus’s ministry, there were those who provided for Him and His disciples. The generosity of those folks made His mission possible, humanly speaking. So money isn’t completely to be avoided, either.
My Own Experience
Similar considerations emerge as I reflect on my own experience.
At one point in my life, I was a seminarian—a person considering becoming a priest. I had given up everything I had. I was allotted $75/month in spending money.
Such voluntary poverty is fundamentally different than involuntary poverty, to be sure. But it is nonetheless meaningful to acknowledge that I was happy with only $75 of disposable income to my name. That was true even on a couple of occasions when, traveling as a seminarian, I slept in homeless shelters. That probably sounds strange, but really I had all I needed.
Having left the seminary, ultimately married, and been blessed with kids, I appreciate also the role that money can play in assisting with the feeding, health care, shelter, education, etc. of my family. I’ve seen how money is a tool that can be used for good.
What lessons can be drawn from the foregoing reflections? Here are two:
- We Need Less Money than We Think. Not just Jesus, but most all of the spiritual masters from the Buddha to St. Mother Theresa attest to this fact. If God chose to live in poverty, we can surely benefit by taking one step closer to detachment (freedom from attachment to the stuff we have) or even simplicity (having less stuff).
- We can be a Bigger Blessing in the Lives of Others than we Think. If a manger can be a major blessing for a newborn, how much more can we bless others through thoughtful generosity? The point of this blog, as I discussed in this post, is to help you be more and more such a blessing in the lives of others.
It is perhaps unusual for a blogger on money to entertain these considerations. I mean, isn’t it easier just to appeal to the consumer in all of us?
Perhaps. But I firmly believe that what each of us wants is to live our lives for what matters most.
And that’s another great thing about holidays such as Christmas. Through the sacrifices we make during the holidays—whether sacrifices of time to be with family or attend church services, or sacrifices of money to give gifts to those we love—it reveals what matters most to us and gives us a privileged opportunity to live for it.
If you celebrate Christmas, I wish you a very merry Christmas. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a very blessed end to the year and a happy New Year. In either case, I hope the close of 2016 affords you ample opportunity to love and live for what matters most.
Question: What is one sacrifice you made this holiday season that reveals an aspect of what matters most to you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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