By Scott Keith –
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Tim. 1:6) I often find myself wondering about the origins and reality of this statement. I recently spent a good deal of time reading Jared Diamond’s books “Guns, Germs, and Steel“ as well as “Collapse.” These are both interesting books if you are willing to get past Diamond’s obvious wholesale acceptance of Darwinian Naturalism. They both, in their own way, trace the sometimes factual and sometimes theoretical evolution of human society from pre-historic times to modernity. Diamond’s attempt is to postulate answers as to why western culture emerged as dominant, and what will be its end. Needless to say, his answers are interesting and perhaps fodder for another blog. One aspect of his research is intriguing and informative to today’s discussion. Diamond reveals, at least partially, that cultures throughout time have evolved with and without a formalized monetary system. Further, he elucidates that the quality of life achieved by a particular culture or society is not determined by its possible acquisition of money or goods. Raising the obvious question: why do we in the West focus on this so tirelessly?
As I read this, in an odd way it reminded me of a revelation I had while studying with Peter Selby at Oxford some 4 or so years ago. Selby wrote a book called Grace and Mortgage, which challenged my fairly conservative beliefs regarding the ethics surrounding debt and money generally. To be certain, there are many grounds for disagreement with Peter Selby’s theology generally, and even Grace and Mortgage is written from a perspective with which I am not always comfortable. Nonetheless, what Selby describes in the book is the reality that a debtless life and financial stability are the last things on which we ought to attempt to ground a Biblical ethical structure. The reality is that the Biblical picture of debt involves forgiveness, and the Biblical picture of monetary health usually involves giving all of our money and goods away. So the question remains: What to do about money?
I have thought about the answer to this question quite a bit over the last ten years. Needless to say, our once very stable financial reality has been somewhat of a roller coaster during that time and I often found myself to blame. The result was, more often than not, that I felt I betrayed my own ethics by not being as financial stable as my conservative world purported that I should be. But here, is the catch… There is no ethical or moral “should” or “ought” when it comes to money save for this; assist others as much as you can with what you have.
Saving money is ethically neutral. Spending money is ethically neutral. If you need to take a loan, that is ethically neutral. If you can pay cash, this too is ethically neutral.
Finally, always try to let your yes be yes and your no be no if you are either a lender or a borrower. If you are a lender, act not only out of the greed of profit, but too out of forgiveness. When all of this fails, when you fail––and you will––know that the grace of God in Christ, which surpasses all of our human understanding and earthly cares, covers you at all times and in all situations. His forgiveness is the ultimate mirror of the forgiveness of the greatest debt you could never pay. You will never be as overdrawn as you are standing before God apart from Christ, and you will never be as rich as you are standing before God in Christ. So what to do about money? Do your best in what works for you and your family, helps others as much as possible, knowing that when it comes to money most of our choices in this fallen world are choices between two evils, our love for money usually being the root of them. Lastly, flee to Christ’s forgiveness in all things, which he freely gives.