By Tito Correa, Pastor, Oslo Seventh-day Adventist Church, Oslo, Norway
Summary: Because of a lack of a philosophy about money, an erroneous view has settled in, and millions and millions of people are completely unaware that they are active worshipers in the money cult.
When rock star Tommy Lee was arrested for battering his sex symbol wife, Pamela Anderson, comedian Jay Leno commented on his TV show: Tommy Lee is a star, lives in Malibu (one of America’s most luxurious districts) and is married to Pamela Anderson. HELLO!, why is he unhappy? Behind this comment, lies the great expectation that people have about money--Money brings happiness.
When the father of President John F Kennedy was asked to comment about political campaigns, Joseph Kennedy said To win a campaign, you need three things: money, more money, and even more money. Another expectation about money--Money can do all things.
I have a friend who swears to the speculation that the cure for cancer has been long found, but it is not revealed because pharmaceutical companies would stand to lose untold millions in revenue. Now, do you see the underlying thought behind these far out speculations? Money is the omnipresent force that moves the world. So here are some thoughts about money. It brings happiness; it can do all things, and is behind everything that goes on in the world.
Money and you
What is money to you? Do you have a particular philosophy about it? This is a question hardly ever asked, yet so badly needed, since in the matter of divorce, for instance, money more than sex is what drives couples apart. Money in our society today has ceased being just a tool to achieve certain goals and has gained a god-like status, the third person in a relationship made for only two. No wonder money can destroy marriages.
When psychotherapist Olivia Mollan* helps couples cope with money- related problems, she advises her patients to engage in a dialogue with their money and to write down what it says to them. Couples report that their money says things like You’re squeezing me so tight I can’t breathe; You need to let go a little; You throw me around; You don’t treat me with respect; You need to pay more attention to me. She then asks her clients to imagine themselves listening to three people, such as their mother, and father, commenting about the dialogue. The final step in the therapy requires the patients to consider what God may say to them on the issue of money. Mollan argues that this exercise helps people realize their own philosophy about money, and to recognize that money is just a tool to achieve certain goals. Since money talks, as some people say, Dr. Mollan directs her patients to talk back to it, discuss the role that it plays in their lives, and define what money is, and what it is not.
Money is a tool
As children we may have heard plenty about money from our parents who mainly complained about the lack of it or argued about its use. As a result, we placed the issue of money on a list of taboo subjects, and today it is impolite to ask someone about their money situation. Consequently, most people have no stand at all about money, and although they may technically see money as just a tool to achieve things, they see money as an equivalent to love, happiness, power, security, control, and much more. In essence, what has happened is that with the lack of a philosophy about money, an erroneous view has settled in, and millions and millions of people are completely unaware that they are active worshipers in the money cult.
When did money cease being just a tool? Two thousand years ago, Jesus was already warning his followers about the love of money and material security; be on your guard against covetousness in any shape or form; For a man’s real life in no way depends upon the number of his possessions (Luke 12:15). So it seems that this erroneous view of money is not a product of the times, but rather a lack of conscientious guarding against confusing the goal for the tool. Why should we be on guard against this confusion? Is it because the erroneous view of money can sneak into our lives unawares?
Money and relationships
Consider the story Jesus told about a younger son who asked his father for his share of the inheritance. Perhaps he was dazzled by the possibilities of what he could do with that lump sum in his pocket. We are not told in the story the reason for the son wanting to leave. Did he have dreams of making it on his own, doubling his wealth, was he looking for something better in his life? It is not important to know this young man’s goal, because whatever end-goal he had, it got lost in the process. For a brief time, money gave him an exciting time, plenty of food, friends, and fun. If he had a goal, it got lost. The goal was replaced by the tool (money), and the tool became the goal, a way of life, a god. This foolish mix up sneaked into the life of this young man and it almost destroyed him. It was only when he had lost the tool completely that he was free to see where real life may be found; in the love and acceptance of his father. The son learned that love and happiness are not found, nor depend on money but on relationships.
And what was the father’s view about money? Notice the respect that he exhibits for his son. The father knew his son was acting on impulse, and that he most probably would squander all of the money, and end up broke. Yet he respects his son’s decision, and he lets him go. When the son returns, the whole household is amazed and touched by the father’s steadfast love toward his son.
It’s just money!
What about the money? Did he care about the loss of a third of his hard-earned wealth? If he did, he exhibits no concern about it. What is evident is that next to the son, money had no chance. He loved his son when he had money, and when he had none. Losing money for this father was not as serious or important as losing a way of life, a goal, or a god. It was just money. His son was far more important than money, and upon the son’s return he calls for the biggest feast. His happiness did not rest on money. His happiness was his son.
Before you take another step into your journey, why don’t you stop and reflect on what money means to you. In this visual society of ours, the lifestyles of the rich and famous can dazzle our eyes, but the high rate of suicide, drug use, and abuse ratify what Jesus said: a man’s real life in no way depends upon the number of his possessions. Where may real life be found? The Apostle John responds to this question: . . . our real life is in the true one, and in his Son, Jesus Christ. This is the real God and this is real, eternal life. In the end, the workaholic, the shopaholic, and the prodigal, find out that they were looking in the wrong place, and that real life may be found only in their relationships with their loved ones. Money is not a goal, money is not a god. Money is nothing but a tool. Money is just . . . money!
* Men, Women, and Money, Psychology Today. January/February 1999, p 49.