The necessary evil…

December 8, 2020

In today’s post top his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, pastor Freed took on the topic of worshiping money with this quote – “Make money your god, and it will plague you like the devil.”  (Henry Fielding)

Certainly, we cannot ignore money or the need for it in order to live in the modern world; however, too many turn money from a means to an end into the end itself. The pursuit of more and more money becomes and obsession to those who worship it. I remember scenes of Scrooge McDuck frolicking in his money bins in the Donald Duck cartoons.

Men in particular seem to allow themselves to become obsessed with making more and more money. They start out telling themselves that it is for their family, but somewhere along the way it really becomes and end in itself and not a means to that end. It also becomes a big part of how they identify themselves – a scorecard for their position in life. The sad part is that it does become the thing that they worship.

I’m reminded of the Bible story of the rich man who asked Jesus what he must do to have eternal life. When told that he must sell all he possessed and give the money to the poor he wandered off, unable to give up his riches. One assumes that he died and did not go to heaven. Some may say, “I wish I was rich and had to make that decision”, but they don’t really wish that upon themselves, once they think about it.

Most of us spend time worrying about money – whether we will have enough to pay the bills or feed the family and pay the rent. Few of us really worship money or obsess about the accumulation of great wealth. Truly happy people are satisfied when they have enough money to meet their basic needs, so that they can focus upon what is important in life – the relationships that they have with loved ones and friends and their relationship with God.

So, yes, money is important as a means to the end of living a happy life, but it is not so important that one should worship (obsess over) it. Maybe instead of praying that God give you more money, one would be better served by praying that God help you find a way to be happier with the money that you have. That happiness is based not on possessions, but on the love in the relationships that you have.

Maybe the lyrics to the Bobby McFerrin song should be slightly modified to read “Don’t worry (about money), be happy.

Not counting the money…

January 15, 2015

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this post – “Without money we’d all be rich.”  (Unknown)  Squirrel pelts once served as money in Finland; copper crosses in the Congo; cheese in Italy; knives in China.  Workers in Greece were sometimes paid in salt.  The word, salary, comes from that. 

money paidMoney was invented s a convenience for all. After all, how many squirrel pelts or punds of salt can we stuff into our wallets? In the beginning money was used only as a means of facilitating the exchange for goods, not as a scorecard. These days with the advent of the credit card and now electronic ways to pay for things money has become almost more a concept than a physical thing. The ultimate conceptualization of money is the BitCoin, which really has no physical manifestation at all. One seldom gets to see reallymoney tumbling down big amounts of physical money; although, if you watch poker on TV at the end of every big tournament they have lovely ladies dump the grand prize money on the table in front of the final two contestants. – it’s quite impressive if the prize is over $1 Million.

Money is used more and more these days as a scorecard of success in life – how much you have demonstrates how successful and important you supposedly are. That has been true for quite some time, going back to the invention of the word Millionaire to describe someone with lots and lots of money. These days a Millionaire might be considered to be a piker in the Billionaires club. Once the numbers get that high it is impossible for most “normal’ to really grasp that amount of money. Of course, unless they pour it in the casket with him, no Millionaire has yet taken it with him when he dies.

Back to the little saying for the day; what would we have that would make us all rich without money as a scorecard of things? People without money often look around them and observe the riches of the land, the wonder of the birds in the air, the fish in the seas and natures abundance in the forests. These are usually people who are so far removed from “civilized societies” that they have yet to be corrupted by the concept of money. It cave manis easy to imagine that one could feel “rich” if one lived I an environment that supplied all that was needed to live close at hand, like the cave man. Hungry? Go pick that fruit over there or catch that fish out in the water. Need clothes? Use that animal skin or weave cloth from the fibers of that plant over there. That is a simple, subsistence way of life that thankfully we have moved beyond. As we did we also lost most of the ability to see the riches that are all around us. Perhaps that s part of what the saying for today is alluding to.

But, living a rich life means more than just taking care of one’s basic needs to survive; it means having one’s health and it means having meaningful and rewarding relationships with others. It means appreciating what you have and not coveting what someone else has. It means finding joy in the simple pleasure of peaceful moments alone and great happiness in those moments shared with others. It means stopping to smell the roses and to appreciate all of those things around you that add shape and color, or smells or tastes or sounds to your environment and make it vibrant and interesting. Mpuppyoney can’t buy the feelings that you get laying on your back in the grass on a warm day and starting up at the clouds as they float by. Money can’t buy the wonderful smell of puppy breath from your new puppy or the soft touch of the skin of a new-born baby in its mother’s arms.  Those are riches that have nothing to do with money.

So, take some time to think about and appreciate all of the things around you and in your life that money can’t buy – the things that Nature supplies and the loving relationships of which you are a part. Once you do, you will have identified the most valuable things in our life. We are all rich indeed, if we just know how to look at our lives and we don’t need money for that.

It’s always all about the money…

April 30, 2013

I read this week about the rejection in Holly, Michigan by the local school board to a proposal from a parents’ group who wanted to buy an old Holly School District school building and use it to open a charter school. They felt like a charter school might do a better job educating their children. A similar proposal in the Huron Valley School District was also rejected and the buildings were torn down, just as the Holly School District proposes to do with its empty building. The reason given in both cases is that a charter school would take money away from the existing school district. Theremoney was no discussion about what is best for the children or whether or not a charter school might provide a better education – it was all about the money.

Education in America, like healthcare and just about everything else is focused upon the money – how to get more and how to keep what they’ve got. Proposals to offer alternatives, whether they represent better education or better health care are always seen as threats to the existing status quo or monopolies and thus are to be resisted.

In health care the resistance to change is being led by the doctors who are resisting efforts to allow Nurse Practitioners to provide much needed primary health care. There was a story in BusinessWeek a week or so back about a nurse practitioner who is the only healthcare provider within 300 miles of her clinic in a small town area out west who is being prevented from providing needed health care services to the residents of tnursehat area by doctors in the state. They try to base their case on an argument that the nurse practitioners don’t have the required training to provide those services. In fact they do and the real argument is one based upon money.

The doctors currently enjoy a monopoly status for practicing medicine in most states that allows them to control the money that is spent on healthcare. They have succeeded in convincing the legislatures and the insurance industry that they, and only they, can provide the simple services of a primary care specialist. We’re not talking brain surgeon here; just the take my blood pressure and listen to my heart kinds of  simple care services that go along with diagnosing what might be wrong and what care may be needed. None of the nurse practitioners is trying to perform surgery or do other tasks which only a trained doctor/specialist should perform.

Because of the doctors’ monopoly and the lack of enough financial return from being a primary care specialist, the BusinessWeek article pointed out the country is today over 20,00teacher0 primary care specialists short of what is needed and th shortage is getting worse. Do the doctors and their lobbying groups care about that – no way. They just keep fighting all efforts to allow the very people who could relieve that shortage from practicing.

So we have educators who are more concerned about maintaining their monopoly on the education  funds than on the quality of education available for our children and we have doctors who fight to maintain their monopoly on the heath care funds, even as people go without care and education suffers.

I know that the arguments are more complex that just what has been presented here, but at the base of both examples it’s all about the money. I know many individual educators and healthcare workers who are deeply concerned about the quality of what they deliver and who are focused upon success at educating or healing. They usually aren’t the ones making the money oriented decisions. Those are people in both professional fields who have moved into the management side of those businesses. To them it’s all about spread sheets, ROI and making sure that they get every last drop out of the government and insurance money spigots that fund their fields. They have long ago stopped being educators or health care providers; they are now administrators. They are protecting their businesses, not pursuing lofty dreams of a better world through education or heath care. It’s all about the money.

The same story can be written about many other institutions in our society. Parishes and churches are closing all around us. Why? It’s all about the money. Police and fire departments are being shuttered or consolidated or outsourced. Why? It’s all about the money. I could go on and on. In fact, I have already; so, let me wrap up by asking the reader. What things in your world are important enough such that it’s not just about the money? Do you fight for those things in your communities? Why not? Is it all just about the money for you, too?