Whether we admit it or not, money dominates our daily lives.
Much of our waking hours revolve around the pursuit and use of money. Most of us have to work in order to afford the basic necessities of life.
Nothing, it seems, is left untouched by money, and our relationship with it often depends on our circumstances. Money, or the lack of it, often dictates the big and small choices we make: where and how we live, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the way we get around, the company we keep, and yes, even the way we feel about ourselves. Money often determines whether one can have access to quality education and adequate health care, both of which are critical to human development.
And yet, when it comes to money, most of us operate on autopilot, mindless consumption now being the dominant response in Western societies.
Beyond worrying whether there’s going to be enough to pay for mounting bills or for one’s impending retirement, and preparing one’s income taxes, most of us don’t give much thought to money and its wider impact.
Some of us may wonder why a select few can live in the lap of luxury or why there are homeless people in our midst, but we may not necessarily question the economic conditions that give rise to these situations. Or, we may chalk it up to life being unfair.
It’s time to think more deeply about money, according to the Anglican Church of Canada’s faith, worship, and ministry committee in the 2013-2016 triennium, which released On the theology of Money: A Resource for Study and Discussion last fall.
The core of the report is Non Nobis, Domine (Not to us, Lord), a theological reflection written by the Rev. Maggie Helwig, which evolved out of many discussions, reflections and study by the Task Force on the theology of Money. The committee, struck by some of the questions around economic and social inequality raised in 2011 by the Occupy Wall Street movement, created the task force. The movement began in New York City with the political slogan “We are the 99%,” highlighting how wealth and power are concentrated in just one per cent of the U.S. population. It spawned similar movements in 80 countries around the world, including Canada.
The responses of the churches to the movement were varied, the document notes, “from welcome to wariness to warrants to keep o property.” However, it adds, “Many in the church leadership immediately recognized that, though many Occupiers were not attached to any particular faith tradition, they and the churches had a common vision, and, to some degree, a common cause-namely, to give life to Isaiah’s vision.” Isaiah’s vision, it states, was one where “people from very different backgrounds shared living space and resources, and food was served generously to anyone who needed it.”
The main questions the task force sought to answer were: “What is money within the present economic systems? What is money within God’s economy of salvation?”
The task force was also mandated to produce resources “to help the church to reflect on the nature of money and the church’s relationship with money.” The bottom line, the document states, is that “we are called everywhere and always to the work of discernment regarding our stewardship of all that God provides.”
In attempting to “map out our current relationship with money through the lens of our faith,” Helwig drew on various sources: the Bible, early and contemporary Christian theologians, and political theory. The result is an essay that is not only thorough and thought-provoking, but gracefully written.
The document, among other things, looks into what the Bible says about money, analyzes the modern/global economy and expounds on the vision of “enough.”
Some of the questions it raises: What is money? What is our relationship with money? How do we use money? What role does money play in our lives and in our world? How should we view money as Christians? And, according to its author, the necessary question: What is “enough” for me/for us?
The document includes guides for group discussions, questions for reflection and discussion on the following themes: On the authority of Scripture, On idolatry, On defining money, On interest, On inequality and consumerism, On market values versus gospel values, and Call to Action.
These reflections are ideal for discussion in groups or for personal reflection, and can even be helpful tools for sermons and lend themselves to other creative forms, says the task force. There are also worship resources, including prayers, hymns and meditations.
Too often one hears complaints that the church is not offering much in terms of theology these days. Well, folks, it’s time to study this document and put your money where your mouth is.