When Money Talks We Buy The Message
“Make money your god and it will plague you like the devil”
Contrary to what many of us have been led to believe, money is not the root of all evil. It is the insatiable love for money which is the real evil. We live in a very materialistic society and we all of us, in some way or another, dance to the tune of the almighty dollar.
According to today’s media and glossy magazines, we want it all: bigger houses, better cars, designer clothes, latest electronic devices, etc. It’s never enough. The more we have, the more we want. The more we earn, the more we spend in order to accumulate even more. Every aspect of our lives is subliminally affected by greed.
Several years ago, there was an email, which came regularly into my in-box entitled ‘The Paradox of Our Time’ allegedly penned by the American comedian, George Carling. On delving into the archives, however, I found a vehement and colourful denial made by him. Who actually wrote it is not important but the content was interesting.
To quote just a few examples, the author wrote: “We have bigger houses, and smaller families; we have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values; we’ve learned how to make a living but not a life; we have …higher incomes, but lower morals, we’ve become long on quantity, but short on quality…” It appears materialism has become the only real basis for our value system.
Maybe we want to be rich or richer because that’s what we think will make us happy. We fail to realize that although we do not have all we want; we do have everything we need. As Ghandi so wisely observed many years ago: “There is enough in the world to meet everyone’s need but not enough to meet everyone’s greed.”
Greed, to a certain degree, is part of everyone’s make-up, whether we are well-off or struggling, whether we opt for a simple life or whether we pursue the almighty dollar. When wealth is accumulated for the purpose of accumulating more wealth, surely there must come a point when we have to ask the question – ‘how much is enough?’ When nothing is ever enough, then greed has taken over.
Why are we so greedy? Obviously, possessions and creature comforts bring us pleasure. But then too many possessions can cause problems. Timothy has some very strong words to say to us about greed and the desire to be rich. He says what makes a person truly rich is “if he is satisfied with what he has. What did we bring into the world? Nothing! What can we take out of the world? Nothing! So then, if we have food and clothes, that should be enough for us. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and are caught in the trap of many foolish and harmful desires, which pull them down to ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6: 6-9).
I wonder sometimes if everyone were rich would that solve all the world’s problems. Would global prosperity prevent wars, racism, terrorism, violence, oppression and, of course, poverty? However, as always, there is a flaw to the utopian dream. And the flaw is our human nature. Unfortunately, there is a collective, but covert, aversion to seeing others getting ahead of us. We have become trapped in an endless cycle to ‘keep up with the Jones’s.’
Mark Twain said that all men worshipped rank, some worshipped heroes, some worshipped power, some worshipped God and over all these ideals they disputed, but they all worshipped money! Nothing has changed much, has it?
It does seem paradoxical that despite the higher incomes, better quality food, more white goods, more overseas trips, bigger houses and better health care, etc. we are still apparently no happier than people were back in the 1950’s.
People say they know money can’t buy happiness but not too many want to believe that. That’s because deep down although they realize happiness equates better with having satisfaction and meaning in their lives, they still opt to pursue materialism. The old adage that it’s money that makes the world go round must be the saddest reality of life!
It is interesting to note that in the Gospels, Jesus has more to say about money than any other subject. For instance, in the Sermon on the Mount he warns us that where our treasure is that’s where our hearts will be also. His message is clear. We came into this world with nothing and will leave it the same way!
In the meantime, as Christians, we have a responsibility to live by the advice Jesus offers us: “Watch out and guard yourselves from every kind of greed; because a person’s true life is not made up of the things he owns, no matter how rich he may be.” (Luke 12: 15)