Ghostly Counsel

Love of money

Andy Hawes is Warden of Edenham Regional Retreat House

'The love of money,' writes St Paul, I 'is the root of all evil.' Money and the use of it is a vexing subject for the Christian. Jesus seems to have been deliberately evasive in his teaching about money; he refused to be an arbiter between brothers on the matter of a will, and famously declared that both God and the State should be given their due.

Jesus lived for a period of time on the charity of others and out of a common purse, but his adult life was probably punctuated with all the complications that earning and spending money brings; particularly if he was a self-employed carpenter. In money matters, each person must work out their own salvation in fear and trembling. This must be the case because every individual's financial situation is full of personal complexities.

It is one of those areas of Christian life where there are few easy answers. This does not mean that the subject should not be addressed and reviewed. Ignatius of Loyola suggested that there were three types or classes of people who illustrate three ways of dealing faithfully with money.

The first class believes that it is wrong to keep anything for oneself, that the Gospel imperative is to 'sell everything you have and giver to the poor.' The second is that one must make the best use of all the resources that one has (as in the parable of the talents) and therefore they are quite content to accumulate and keep wealth. The third is the person who day by day seeks to be a faithful steward of their resources and is open to God's will and the needs of others as they unfold.

Where do you fit into all this, dear reader? Does it make you squirm? There must be a good argument for saying that the third class of person is the best and most Christ-like model. This is certainly how Jesus dealt with people on a pastoral level. His response to the rich young man is very different to his response to Simon the Pharisee and all the other wealthy folk whose hospitality he enjoyed. Jesus himself was a recipient of charity - the Gospel tells us that wealthy women provided for him and the disciples out of their own resources.

Money is a hook that draws us to the heart of our conscience and into the complex forces that shape our will. It is one of those areas in life where we are called to wrestle with God and man. We are reminded by lobby groups of all shades that what we do with each pound in our pocket makes a significant difference to the well-being of others and of creation. This means that we must not keep money in our purse or wallet; we must place it deliberately at the heart of our prayers.

If all this sounds too daunting, there is a well-tried method of keeping God on the bank balance and that is the custom of tithing. Work out how much you have to spend (after rendering to Caesar his due) and then give one in every ten pounds to God - and that does not necessarily mean the work of the Church!

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