Monday, February 17, 2014

Money Makes the World Go 'Round

"Money makes the world go around
The world go around
The world go around
Money makes the world go around
It makes the world go 'round"

Lyrics from the award winning musical "Cabaret" speak a truth that most of us would prefer not to recognize. Many of us would prefer to think that love makes the world go 'round, or at least some similarly "noble" value.  But the plain truth is that it is money: not the dollar or the yen or the Deutschmark, or the pound, but the notion that somewhere, we have a store of power that can change our lives and the lives of those we encounter for good or ill. In the words of the Clinton campaign committee, "It's the economy, stupid!"

This is a fact.

Even Jesus recognizes the same.

I think that is why Jesus spoke so frequently about money and our attitudes toward it.

Let's look at ourselves for a moment. For most people, truth-telling about their monetary worth is a taboo subject. In my own family, it has been considered rude to ask about "how much someone is worth." Even more so, we were trained not to give a direct answer to such questions like, "How much did you pay for that house/car/suit . . .?" much less answer a question like how much is in the bank or in one's paycheck.  This all despite the fact that most of this information is easily accessible if someone really wants to know. For example, my salary is a matter of public record for the parish (annual meeting must approved the budget); the value of our home is available on websites like; and anyone who purchases a car, or a suit, for that matter, knows the ballpark figure of how much it is worth.

What strikes me about all this is the relationship between generosity and truth-telling.  It seems that we guard our financial secrets so that others will not know whether or not we are authentically generous. The gospel calls us to a preferential option for the poor (or another way, solidarity with the poor), so to admit that I may not actually be poor may call into question just how generous I have been with what I have. By extension, we may see how the Church falls short of its gospel call when we add up all that it owns, has and provides for. If we are totally transparent about money in the Church, we may end up seeing that we nearly miss answering the call to a preference for poverty. We have so often seen the call to poverty as an ideal - as something ascribed to those capable of sainthood - rather than as something that each and every believer is called to live. It would do us well to tell some truths about what we have and what we think we control so that we can honestly respond to the needs of the poor, whom we will "have with us always."