I am not a whiz with money and may be legally obligated to tell you that I’m not a licensed banker, broker, tax advisor or accountant. I don’t even balance my own checkbook, thanks to my wife. So it’s not surprising that I get a little intimidated and more than perturbed when I hear those radio ads targeting people like me who are driving to work and clueless about their 401k, 529, Roth IRA, money markets, and other financial “products” or “instruments.”
Every day as well, pegged by algorithms that know my age, location, user name, and taste in ice cream, I am blitzed by online messages for the over-60 set, asking in a thousand different ways, “Do you have enough to retire?”
“No, I don’t, and I don’t care!” I snap. “I plan to die an early, unpredicted death!” How’s that for fighting back against the metrics that place a dollar sign on my existence? Although, of course, I’ll need to cancel my online accounts before my untimely demise. …
With the “holiday” spending season and year-end financial accounting upon us, now is a good time to think about money in eternal terms. Here’s the question: We all want more money, but at what price?
I’m not going to rail against wealth and say how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus already told us that in three different Gospels and we tend to ignore the warning when it doesn’t fit our financial goals. Neither will I say that we should give everything to the poor and follow Jesus. After all, those words were meant for that one rich young man in 1st-century Galilee, not for me and thee.
There is every indication that God is very interested in our money
What I will say is that there is every indication that God is very interested in our money. How do I know? You could Google it, or else open an old-time biblical concordance and look up the word “money.” In my dusty, yellow-paged copy, there are 120 references to “money” in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament, including four with “mammon.” Okay, you sigh in relief, God seemed a lot more interested in money in the old days than in our enlightened times, when even ministry is concerned with profit margin. But remember that the Old Testament spans a few thousand years, and the ministry of Jesus was a mere three years. In that short span, he walked almost everywhere, even on water, told the parable about the evil rich man suffering in eternity and the blessed poor man in “the bosom of Abraham,” overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple, and was sold for 30 pieces of silver by an apostle who’s an icon of greedy treachery.
With all this considered, how do we answer the question above? At what price – in time, effort, family life, and friendships – do we go after money?
It seems to me there are a few basic principles to guide us Christians:
- Hand your money over to God – all of it. You must really believe that everything you have is a gift from God to use for the good of others. Pray every day for guidance on how to spend or donate whatever you have, whether great or small.
- Provide for loved ones.If you’re a parent, spouse or any sort of provider, you must see that your loved ones live in reasonable comfort. This does not mean giving them luxuries; your kids will be better off with less allowance, more privation, and a summer job.
- Seek heaven.Allow Jesus the final word: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven …” (Mt 6:19-20).
These are high standards, for sure, and few of us will be inclined naturally to reach them. It helps, therefore, to be part of a group of like-minded Catholics whose first principle is charity, such as the Knights of Columbus.
But what does all this have to do with saying that my retirement plan is an untimely death? Every death is, in a sense, untimely, because we don’t know when God will call us from this world to stand before his judgment. When that day comes, he will not ask how much money I had, but whether or not I used it for the good of others.
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Brian Caulfield works at the Knights of Columbus headquarters, where he is editor of knights.net and fathersforgood.org.