We all have an insatiable desire for something more. In this frustrating life, where our appetite never ceases, we constantly find ourselves seeking to satiate these cravings. Usually, we end up concluding that we need more money to do so.
Yes, we all need to buy the basics like food and shelter. But most of us don’t have daydreams of eating hotdogs in our living room. We don’t have to look beyond our own shopping bags to see that our money is entangled with our longings. We want the prestige that a new car brings, to taste the success that an exotic vacation communicates, or to get that new dress that makes us appear confident.
This is the site of a major spiritual battleground: where our true needs duke it out with what our culture says we need.
You and I actually require very simple things to live. When enjoyed fully, even life’s basics carry with them enough of a daily load on their own.
Obviously, extras aren’t necessarily negative. And often they are even very good things. But they aren’t the ultimate “desire fulfillers” we mistake them for. The realities of death, economic crisis, and other circumstances out of our control reveal that unless there is richness to our daily lives, we will seek whatever we think will make us more fulfilled.
And when we find out that those things don’t satisfy our desires, we end up somewhere along the spectrum of disappointed to devastated. Often we discover we’ve got it all wrong, so we try something else. The painful cycle then repeats.
One of the primary invitations of the Christian life is for our emptiness to be filled with the riches of a relationship with God. And because it is a contender for the same real estate in our souls, money is one of the most addressed topics in Scripture. The book of Ecclesiastes sheds some light around the futility of human desire. We hear from King Solomon, someone who “had it all,” telling us that having it all doesn’t actually solve the problem of unfulfilled desire. Dreams that seem utopian are illusions.
I’m convinced the only way to handle money well is to receive it as a gift. If you have money, it is God who has shared it with you, along with the numerous graces that have allowed you to work, save, and build a life. In seeing the bounty that God has provided, our spirit becomes more grateful, generous, and wise with how we interact with our finances.
When our needs are prescribed by the world, we are snared with entitlement, stress, and control. But if we live within God’s economy, our spending will increasingly partake in the flourishing of the most important things in our personal lives, as well as in our local and global communities.
So start by asking yourself, “Where do I feel empty?” or “What areas do I wish to feel differently about myself or about my life?” Then ask, “What do I buy to avoid meeting God in those areas?”
Seek out wise counsellors, pastors, and other resources to deepen your spiritual formation. Because all of our choices in life, including the financial, begin in our hearts.
Let’s invite God to free us from the cultural and self-prescribed hamster wheels that are so easy to jump on and so difficult to jump off. We don’t need to be distracted from revising our behaviours by dwelling in shame and guilt over our financial mistakes. Instead, we can pray for the courage and faith to live within the freedom of God’s economy.
Originally published in Issue 17 of Converge Magazine.
Photo by (Flickr CC) Adrian Scottow