Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The 'All Mighty' Dollar

I was at church on Sunday and I heard mention of, 'the all mighty dollar'. It made me think (and stop listening), isn't there only one 'All Mighty'? And if my understanding of other teachings at church are correct, it's not money. And this is what I thought about in church instead of what was being discussed...

Money is treated a lot like a god. I'm going to take a step out of my religious understandings and present this from the perspective of the people. I don't know who 'the people' are, but I'm going with what I think most people believe.

Those who believe in God generally believe that he is all powerful. He (God is generally referred to as a He, although some seem to be feminizing God... I think) is immense and incomprehensible. He can cause any change to come about that He wants and He is all controlling. While no one, or at most very few (I think there is some debate there), have seen God, they know that he exists because of His power and works.

Now let's compare that with money. Is money all powerful? The phrase about the 'all mighty dollar' certainly suggests that it is. Is money immense and incomprehensible? I think that pretty much sums up the economy. When I get ready to leave for school in the mornings, I listen to NPR and I almost always get the economic reports. I am fascinated by how many professional economists there are and how they can all have differing views. That is quite similar to all of the various preachers across the country that all believe in a God, but see Him quite differently. Does money cause change to come about? How many of you were 'rewarded' financially for good grades? or for performing better at work? So money seems to make change come about as dictated by the controller of the money (remind me that I need to talk about the controller of the money at some point). So how many people have actually seen money? Sure, we've got that stuff in our wallets that we can exchange for goods, but paper has little value at all. The stuff in your wallet represents gold that is on reserve at Fort Knox (I believe). Have you seen the gold represented by the paper in your wallet? I haven't. We can even take this a step further with online banking. My paycheck is automatically deposited into my account and then I use a credit card to pay for things and send a check in every month to pay off my credit card bill. I never see money, and if it weren't for the check that I wrote I could never really have any tangible proof of money existing (that's really sort of scary on some levels).

Let's talk about a golden calf. Wasn't there a group in the Bible that got in trouble for worshiping a golden calf? (I'll give you a hint, the answer is yes). The problem with the golden calf thing was that God told the people not to put any god before Him. I think that's a reasonable request since He is all powerful and the creator of everything we have, including ourselves.

Now I want to make a distinction that is very important. Golden calves aren't bad, it is the worship of the golden calf that caused the problem. Having a golden calf in your yard may get the fashion police after you because it is sort of tacky, but I don't think God cares if you own a golden calf or not. The important thing is that you don't worship the golden calf. When you place the golden calf in a position equal to God, then God gets mad and we have problems.

Likewise money isn't inherently bad. While I like the idea of bartering for all of my purchases, I don't have much to give. My garden has zucchini (which I have to pay people to take) and green tomatoes. I could trade my knowledge for your food... in fact, since most of my knowledge is about weight control and obesity prevention, that might work out really well for you. The point is that bartering won't always work so money is essential.

So here is the big question, do we worship our money or use it for its intended purpose. How about if we talk about faith. In the Bible (Hebrews 11:1) it says that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen". So while our money isn't really substantive, we certainly hope that it has value and while we've never seen the gold it is based on, we have before purchased with the paper stuff and received goods in return. It seems like we have faith in money. How much to we rely on God for those things that we hope for? How often to we recognize God's work as evidence of things that we can't see? Sorry, that got a little preachy and that wasn't what I was going for.

We seem to have faith in money, but that may not be the end of the world. Jesus said, "Come follow me". How much time and energy to we spend following Jesus and how much time and energy do we spend following money? While it's important to note that those two things are not mutually exclusive, we need to be attentive to what we are following.

In my hour of thinking about money and how god-like it can be, I was amazed at the examples I could come up with where people follow money and it really becomes like a god. While the point of this post wasn't to bring a non-believer to believe in God, I think that it is crucial that money does not become the god that we all worship, although I think we may already be pretty close to being there.


P.S.
So who are the controllers of money (you forgot to remind me)? I would say there are two ways of looking at it. Number one, you can say that big business and government control money. They decide who makes the money and they decide which businesses get the benefits. There's a lot of corruption in these areas and it's scary to think of them as the controller of our god. Number two, you could say that we, the consumer are the controllers of the money. Big business will listen to what consumers want, otherwise they will not longer be in business. Do you want an opportunity to have real power in this world? Do you want to be the source of big and great changes in the world around you? Then put your money toward what you really believe and don't give any to those you would consider the problem.

I'm done ranting for the day. At least online.

4 comments:

Nate said...

The truth is, America doesn't rely on the gold standard anymore. Whether there is gold in Fort Knox for any reason other than public speculation as to why it's there, or to keep us thinking that our money is backed up by a lot of gold, I don't know.

The ironic thing, is that the "almighty dollar", if it's referencing the American dollar, is not all that accurate anymore since both the British pound and the euro are both worth more than the dollar. But when they use this phrase, people are probably referring to money as a concept, right?

Emily A. W. said...

I like your post. Our dollar is backed up by treasury bonds. The government just bought out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with those treasury bonds which means that our currency is now backed by mortgages. Ugh....the gold currency standard was stopped in the 70's and that's why the Federal Reserve controls the economy with interest rates.

Now, I like your thoughts about not letting money control us. Thank you for sharing.

Bri-onic Man said...

I just read a book that talks a lot about living simply and saving money. The authors are very much not into the stock market, and instead favor fixed-rate investments (CDs, quality bonds, etc.) and frugality. They don't say "never buy anything", but they do say "only buy things that really add meaning to your life".
I think that one of the most awesome feelings I could have in this life would be to save enough (and simplify enough) that I no longer HAVE TO work. With cars/house/student loan paid off and enough money saved to get by on the interest, a person can work as much or as little as they feel like. Just as important, a person would be less-compelled to compromise their principles for that "all mighty" dollar.
I watched a couple things lately that really motivated me to get as financially secure as possible. On the National Geographic Channel they were interviewing a poor lady (one of many) in India who sold one of her kidneys on the black market (to be subsequently placed in the child of a wealthy foreigner) for about $700. She had been told she'd receive $3500, of course, but that didn't happen. That same night, we also finished watching a documentary called "Deep Water". It's about a British man who entered a sailing competition to circle the globe without ever stopping in port. He had very little experience but acted like he did, spent a LOT of time by himself out there in the ocean, faked his progress over the radio, basically went crazy (partly driven by having to own up to his dishonesty on returning to port), and committed suicide. He needed the money too.
So all I can say is, be smart about what you buy, get out of debt, and make your money serve you (and not the other way around).

DMo said...

Your post got me thinking...so thank you.

It seems money is our societies' amoral resource that enables us to pursue our personal desires. I guess in that sense, money is the scapegoat--which you described very well in you explanation of the Golden Calf. Where your heart is there will your treasure be also.

I'm still fascinated that we pay a few people millions of dollars to run around and throw a ball through a hoop, or hit a ball with a stick, or act out all sorts of anti-social behavior in "good" shows; yet the people we say we value the most,such as school teachers or the emergency crews struggle to support their families (families--another general contrast to the entertaining industry.)

Anyway, some people use the money resource to 'dig a pit for your neighbor' or pursue 'riotous living;' yet others use and honestly magnify the resource for the sake of helping others (including the self-sufficiency of our families.)

Like you said, it does boil down to personal priorities--who or what is your God?

Thanks for the thought promoting thoughts.