The Staffordshire Horde of Angl0-Saxon gold
One of the hardest things to have wise, sane, healthy thoughts about is money–since money is not mere zeroes on a bank statement, but the fruit of our labour, and our luck; a force which affects almost every area of our lives…our housing, surroundings, health, education, friendships, social life, vacations, leisure, thought-life, trust in God, and openness to His generous nudgings… Jesus says “Mammon,” money, is the biggest competitor to the love of God and the joy of God being the predominant force in our lives. It’s not easy to grasp Jesus’s thoroughly sane and foreign perspective on money. But seeing his life— intense, faith-filled, joyous, and infinitely influential, it’s well worth trying.
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“It’s all God’s money,” I frequently repeat this useful mantra. I can be hard on myself, expecting too much wisdom and good sense of myself (and others!). As I tidy my house, and my eyes fall on books I haven’t read, boxed DVD sets I haven’t yet watched, clothes I have barely worn, furniture that I bought quickly and conveniently, rather than carefully and judiciously, I think “Gosh, that was a waste of money.” Sort of!
The only real waste of money, however, is to fling it into the ocean, or to burn a twenty pound note as a Cambridge undergraduate was filmed doing to torment a homeless man. Otherwise, when it comes to wasted purchases, God’s money flowed through my unwise hands into the department stores,’ and if I donate these things to a charity shop, it can flow into yet someone else’s hands, and I will have been a conduit of God’s blessing.
It’s the same with gym memberships, National Trust memberships, or Royal Horticultural Society memberships I haven’t fully used. It wasn’t “wasted;” the money flowed from me to someone else. It’s what I tell myself when I get what I think is a great deal on a airfare or a vacation rental, and my competitively savvy friends tell me of a better one they found: “‘It’s all God’s money.’ It flowed from me to BA rather than EasyJet. So be it.” And I saved time by not interminably shopping around for killer deals.
Making mistakes is part of being human; only God is all-wise. It’s important to accept our mistakes, our limited wisdom, our Pooh-of-Very-Little-Brainness and move on. I have run a small business since 2006, and notice how often people make mistakes. Our products are not the cheapest. But people buy them. Not everyone has the time or spirit or willingness to hound down the best value; I don’t myself. I am in and out of stores at the speed of light. Just as blessing comes to us because not everyone beelines for the cheapest stuff, or the best value, I am learning to offer grace to myself, and my family when other people or businesses profit from our mistakes.
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A single apple seed can produce tens of thousands of apples. We observe this yearly in our small orchard. That is the normal rate of increase in creation. Jesus, it’s recorded, fed five thousand people from five loaves… each loaf multiplied a thousand times. Abundance–our thoughts, our words, our work, our investments, multiplied many times over–is the normal law of creation.
God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the Psalmist tells us. Yet in his mercy, he only entrusts a few of these flocks to us. God’s material provision for each of us is sufficient, but not infinite. So we should try to make wise use of whatever gifts–of intellect, talent, opportunity or resources–He may have given us, but lightly. We are all limited beings, of limited intelligence, compared to the creator. So while we endeavour to use our talents and resources well, we also need to forgive ourselves, and offer ourselves grace when, through laziness, weakness, or sheer stupidity, we do not. It’s all God’s money; when I made mistakes through laziness or bad judgement, he used it to bless someone else!
And so we can let it all go, the lost or stolen handbags, wallets, phones, jewellery, the burgled cars, and houses. It’s all God’s money. God willing, those lost things were a blessing to someone else, and, mercifully, the river of God’s goodness does continue flowing, bringing to us newness, and more blessing besides.
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So while we should use due diligence, and give to reputable, time-tested charities like Tearfund, we don’t need to torment ourselves about whether every cent is going to our sponsored child, or designated project, or whether it’s being lost to corruption, governmental or internal, or how wisely it’s being spent, or how effectively altruistic we are being. God uses our values, our backgrounds, our life-experiences, and the things that stir our hearts to direct each of us to support different charities. Choose the charities which resonate with your passions, pick the best ones according to your wisdom, intelligence and values, and then release the money to them. It’s all God’s money, anyway.
I love the Parable of Talents, which is incredibly true. To him who uses his “talents” well, more shall be given.
But ultimately, we are definitely not on earth to maximize our gifts and our talents, to explode our businesses, or invest our money with the Midas touch. God created the world from nothing by his mighty word. Jesus fed five thousand with two fish, drew gold coins from the mouths of other fish, and he can provide for us without all our artful schemes, dreams, and dodges.
We are not on earth to hustle, to multiply our words, our talents, and wealth through judicious application of the Protestant work ethic… because God is ace at multiplying and he can direct us to hidden wealth beneath our feet, like the Roman and Anglo-Saxon hordes of gold continually unearthed in Britain, or to herds of cattle waiting to be lassoed in an overlooked hill. We are on earth to learn to love. To love God, and other people. We are on earth to learn to be kind.
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Image: By David Rowan, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (Staffordshire hoard) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons