Tensions Part 10: Gain and Loss

Money. The root of all evil some might say as they misquote Paul's first letter to Timothy. It is the only thing on earth that might rival Yahweh as being equally loved and hated at the same time. It is the center of every political policy and almost every decision we make at home. Countless debates are fueled by how it should be distributed. Relationships are forged and broken by how it should be handled. It is one of the greatest influencers of all time, and if we are not careful, it will control us instead of us controlling it.

I asked my father-in-law recently about his thoughts on building wealth. He and my mother-in-law have always worked hard, saved well, spent minimally, and given generously. I've always seen them as a couple who handles money biblically. When I made my inquiry, I expected him to quote verses from the Bible by which they chose to obey as the primer to godly finances. What I received was rather different. He talked about two men whom he called friends and revered as entrepreneurs.

The first one is a very wealthy man whose advise on money was to live without fear. Do not be afraid to lose money and do not be afraid to gain money. I thought that answer odd at first. "Who would be afraid to gain money," I thought. What I reasoned later on is that people fear having a lot because they fear who they might become and what they'd have to sacrifice to keep it.

The second man talked about setting achievable goals and accomplishing them without doubt. His advice was not to try hard, but to achieve without any thought of failure to distract from success.

I left the conversation with my father-in-law being communicated that courage and faith are the primary ways to build wealth. We have to maintain courage through the often tumultuous rumblings of money's surges and declines. And we have to have faith to accomplish what we believe is right.

When Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, he already had the reputation of a man who amassed great amounts of wealth. He lost a lot of it through building projects and giving to those in need and he gained a lot through relationships with other nations and wise business practices. He did not get stuck with only filling his coffers and he did not get stuck with only emptying his accounts. There is a certain ebb and flow that comes with handling money wisely - a natural way of living where we constantly receive and give, receive and give. If we are not receiving though, how can we give what we do not have.

I am embarrassed by my millennial contemporaries who are screaming for free college, free health care, doubling minimum wage, etc. There is an attitude of entitlement being bred among young people today that everything should be handed to them for free without the blood and sweat of their own personal contributions. Healthy economies are not perpetuated by people demanding free stuff, but rather by producing adults who have the freedom and financial incentive to be innovative.

So often, media paints the social justice warrior crying for free college as a greater societal benefit than the entrepreneur making millions, but creating thousands of jobs. Vain philosophies do not set up families for financial success. Working and investing does. I support the CEO of a big corporation providing me an opportunity to earn an income much more than I support socialist theorize-rs protesting my goal to provide, expecting my tax dollars and the tax dollars of my employers to provide for them.

Giving generously is a biblical principle, but it is also a choice. Epitomizing Robin Hood and his ideology of stealing from the rich to give to the poor (especially in today's age of free enterprise) is not only bad economics, it is morally corrosive. Generosity is biblical, but not coveting your neighbor's belongings is also biblical.

The financial gain of businessmen should be celebrated. And if he/she loses that gain, it should be by choice, not by compulsion. No one should be diagnosed as a wicked miser on the sole basis of having a lot of money. While generosity is the biblical prescription to balance a wealthy person's heart, it is not demanded of him/her to do so. We still have free will, at least we did the last time I checked.

Courage and faith are some of the basic tenants of the Christian faith. For my unbelieving friends, they are also the basic tenants of the decency of humanity. Whether it's relationships, jobs, acclaim, creativity, or yes, even money, we need to hold our hands out loosely and we must do it by our individual conscience, punishing not the people who do not honor such opinions. No matter what we have in our life, we can be recipients of abundance or deficits. It is up to us not to be boastful and vainglorious when we have a lot or bitter and disgruntled when we don't.

Everyone experiences it - gain and loss. Not a single person is immune, but courage and faith will ground us to experience both seasons with grace.

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