11.05.2006

All That Glitters...

As I perused a "How the hell did that happen?" credit card bill a couple of nights ago, it occurred to me that much of my life revolves around money.

My professional life certainly does. In the last six months, most of my time in the office involved creating and refining cost estimates for future capital improvement projects to give decision-makers at my company a legally defensible basis to make decisions (If that sentence made no sense to you, don't worry - I'm paid to do it, and I'm still not sure that I completely understand.). Determining detailed costs for my designs represents a shift in my responsibilities that makes my job more challenging, but at the same time, I am learning the financial side of the business, and consequently I am growing into a better engineer. Understanding money better holds some unqualified advantages.

My last credit card bill notwithstanding, I made an effort to better manage my personal finances better this year too. I talked to a financial planner. I watched Jim Cramer and read Rich Dad, Poor Dad. What I learned can be distilled to the following: Accumulate assets that make you money, and minimize liabilities that cost you money.

But then something stopped me cold. I travelled down the rabbit hole a little too far, and began to plan my future with the objective of making as much money as possible. Then I remembered something I had forgotten: As the Rabbi said, "You cannot serve both God and money."

So as I make critical decisions about my future, I suspect there are other things that I should value more than money. So what will those be? If not money, what is truly important?

The chair recognizes the right honorable gentleman from Nazareth:

...Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (The glory of God is important.)

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. (Holiness is important.)

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Heavenly reward is important - more important than a big number in a 401k.)

Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (The needy are important, but not because it will make you look like a nice guy.)

You have heard it said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be the sons of your Father who is in heaven. (Love is so important that it's meant for those who hate us too.)

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (The kingdom of God and obedience to His commands is important)

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Kindness to others is important.)


By my count, that's seven things that are a helluva lot more important than money. I'm glad that I know more about money now, but I'm also glad that I see it for what it is - a gift from God meant to be used for the glory of God. Whether I have a lot or a little, that ain't going to change.

On that note I will take my leave. I have a credit card bill to pay...

3 Comments:

At 1:13 PM, Blogger sarahalil said...

Very interesting. To expand your quote: In Judaism, there are several tiers of Tzedakah (simple translation=charity). The highest form of Tzedakah is when the giver does not know who is receiving and the receiver does not know from whence it came.

 
At 6:52 PM, Anonymous Laura said...

Good post. Thanks for writing this because it is a good reminder for people entering the professional world (or still transitioning into it, as I am). It's a reminder that I needed to read.

Something that I have noticed is that the more money you have, the harder it is to manage money wisely and in a way that glorifies God. The best way to handle it is to develop good habits when you're poor (like in college) and then continue those habits when you get a well-paying job.

This passage makes more sense to me every time I get a bonus or a raise:

"It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." This in response to a wealthy young man who was unwilling to give up everything to follow Jesus "because he had great wealth."

It's difficult to be wealthy and still focus on God and glorify him in the way you spend your money because there are so many distractions, so many things you can afford to buy but shouldn't. And the more wealth you have, the more you have to be willing to give up if Jesus calls you to sell everything you have and give to the poor.

The way that we handle money and keep it in perspective is really important - Jesus said a whole lot about money and giving to the poor. He knew it would be a weed that would choke our spiritual growth if not handled wisely.

(by the way, the "you" in this comment is the collective you, not you as in Nate in particular)

 
At 11:01 PM, Blogger Nate said...

Sarah - I'll have to look up the Tzedakah now. One thing that gets lost in Christian circles is that the Sermon on the Mount is essentially Jesus distilling the Jewish law down to "Do the right thing for the right reason." You could really say that for anything Jewish in Christianity. Also, I think the commands to love our enemies and to give without expectation of reward are ultimately calls to sacrifice, which makes me think of the email Ellen posted the other day.

Laura - I heard that you are considering pharmacy school. I know I've pushed you to do it, and I know you'd make a great pharmacist, but in light what I just wrote, I'd say to make sure you're doing it for the right reasons.

 

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