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Money Money Money

March 3, 2015

I’ve been doing some thinking around money issues recently. I guess partly because we’ve been running the CAP money course with a couple of groups, which has made me reflect on our own finances and values. And partly because I guess money and what we do (or don’t do) with it is something that we all think about a lot!

I think I have a tendency to be quite judgmental about how people use their money. I kind of expect everyone to live by the same principles I live by. Or at least the principles I aspire to live by. A wise person said to me recently that the problem with that is not only that I’m judging others, which I shouldn’t do, but that when I myself can’t live up to what I expect of everyone, I feel guilty. Mostly guilty for having stuff that others around me don’t. 

We all have to make choices however, and I guess there are others who have things I don’t, or spend money in ways I wouldn’t consider, because our spending often reflects our values. And that’s true or not we have much money.

At the risk of sounding judgmental of people who don’t live this way (and I don’t want to be… I’m just reflecting on some thoughts and challenges that we are working through ourselves at the moment) I’ve also been thinking about what it means to be a ‘good steward’ of money. We often hear about good stewardship in church contexts… Basically it’s about how we look after our money in a way that honours God. It’s a recognition that all that we have is God’s and entrusted to us and that we should treat it as such.

My main reflection on this is that often it seems that this ‘looking after’ of money often becomes about making the most of our money, making it go further, investing it wisely, saving etc. But I’m wondering if this is really what God is asking from us? (This might just be personal or maybe God wants to challenge his wider church on it too?)

For instance, I think it’s wise to save in some situations. For things we know we are going to need to spend on: Christmas, car insurance, the new cooker we might need of ours is on its last legs, a well-needed holiday etc. But the only things I can think of in the bible that relates to savings say things like ‘Do not store up treasure on earth’ (Matt 6:19), ‘go and sell all you posess’ (Mark 10:21) and ‘Do not worry about tomorrow’ 

God seems to have much more positive things to say about giving and being generous than he does about keeping or saving for ourselves or our families.

The same comes with paying tax. As someone married to a self-employed person, I am probably more aware than most about how much  gets paid. The temptation can sometimes be to find ways to avoid paying so much tax. What can be claimed as legitimate business expenses etc? I’m not advocating necessarily that we should pay more tax than we should… But what does Jesus have to say on this matter? When he was asked directly whether tax should be paid he said ‘Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s’ (Mark 12:17) 

Should we be quibbling about tax and trying to find ways to pay less, or should we be happy to give back to the state? I find this a particularly interesting debate in the light of politics, public spending and the church’s role in challenging social policy when it comes to helping the poor. Whatever we think of the current, or other governments, do we have a responsibility to contribute to the state so it can help others less fortunate than ourselves? Can we be on one hand critical of the governments benefit policy if we ourselves are holding back from putting into the pot? 

We often don’t have a problems pointing out that what’s legal isn’t always moral when it comes to bankers bonuses or millionaires tax avoidance. But are we making financial choices that are moral and informed by Godly principles, or are we happy to simply stay withing what’s legal? 

 What would God say is good stewardship? Is it more important to save our money or be generous? Do we have the right to benefit from our earnings or should we share and help the poor? Should our priority be investing for the future and our families or benefitting others here and now? 

I don’t think I know the ‘answers’ to most of these questions, even if I do have a view. However what I would love is if you, by reading this, have been challenged to think about your financial choices.

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