Money, Money, Money!
“I don’t go to church. All they do is ask for money.” Ever heard that before? Maybe you’ve even said it.
But did you know that Jesus mentioned money in the Gospels more than any other subject? He talked about money and possessions more than heaven, more than hell, and even more than love. Why do you think this is?
To answer this question, you need to answer a more fundamental question: “What is money?”
Money is just a thing, a tool, but money is also an icon of something very profound. It represents my time, my labor, and sometimes even my vision of myself. When you go to a store or buy a service, you are really engaging in a profoundly spiritual exercise. You are saying, “I will trade this amount of money (which represents my labor, my education, and my personal efforts) for this item or this service.” When you work at your job, you tell your boss, “I will trade my time, expertise, and labor for this amount of money.” You are investing something valuable, yourself, into something else you happen to value at the time.
This is why Jesus talked about money so much. He understood that my money and my possessions can be a powerful master or a powerful servant. Significantly, St. Paul says that it is the love of money, not money itself, which is the root of all evil (see 1 Timothy 6:10).
What is at stake if we fail to build an Orthodox Christian perspective about our finances and our possessions? Nothing less than running the risk of having another master other than Christ. Jesus said it best: “You cannot serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24). If we lose our focus on Christ, we begin to violate the image of God in our fellowmen (Gen. 1:28; Jas. 3:9) by using them as a means to our own gratification.
Here are three spiritual principles concerning money and possessions that will help you avoid falling into the slavery of using people and loving things.
First, Money is a Tool. As with any tool, the effect of money in your life depends on how you use it. A hammer can be used to build a house or crush a skull. Money like all of our possessions must always be considered a means to an end, never an end in itself. Anything that can be stolen or lost or burned is not strong enough to bear the weight of human devotion or need. As Jesus said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt. 6:19-21)
Second, Generosity creates Freedom. A wise man once told me that when a man becomes unthankful, he becomes unholy (cf, 2 Tim. 3:2). St. Paul told the Corinthians that “God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7) A person with an open, generous, heart is always open to the mercy of God. Such a person realizes that everything we possess is really a gift and, as any gift, should be received with humility and gratitude. By learning to give and expecting nothing in return, we humans build into our own souls the freedom that God Himself enjoys. He gives liberally and freely knowing full well that we humans can never truly “repay” Him. But He gives anyway because He is truly free of any “need” to be repaid. He gives out of the sheer joy of giving. This is our model.
Finally, Eternal Life Changes Everything. When we live with the full knowledge that Christ has given us eternal life, we can no longer allow that which is temporary to govern our choices and our attitudes. If I have eternal life, then what I accumulate here is always put at the disposal of the Lord’s eternal Kingdom. Because of Christ and His love, I will live forever. If this really is true, then all I possess is not worth more than what has been given to me because of Christ and His love. That helps me keep in perspective what I possess or “earn”.
Asking how much I “have” to give to be in “good standing” with the Church shows that I have not yet come to understand just what money and possessions are really all about. Learning that all I possess is a gift of God, from my bank account to my very life, sets me free to use it all for the glory of God and to further the work of His eternal Kingdom. This is a lesson for us to learn and to pass on to our children. It is also a way for us to move our churches from begging to blessing, with the resources we need to truly build a witness to Orthodoxy for future generations.
Listen this week to Come Receive The Light.
Yours for the spread of Orthodoxy,
Fr. Chris Metropulos
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(Posting date 05 November 2006)
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