Monday, August 24, 2020

Faith And Money: A Complex Relationship

 Contributed post

We have a lot to be grateful for in the modern world - especially when it comes to our finances. Never before in history have so many people had so much. What we have now is a massive break from the norm of human existence, where most people just managed to scrape by.

In biblical times, very few people had lifestyles even approaching our own - perhaps less than half a percent of the population. Usually, only the people who circled the leaders at court could look forward to delicious food every day and a warm bed at night. For everyone else, it was a constant struggle. Average incomes in ancient Rome, for instance, were less than they are in war torn parts of the world, like Iraq and Somalia today. That’s quite something when you think about it!

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The prosperity of the modern world presents new challenges to the faithful. Religious texts spend time discussing money, but it is tangential and refers primarily to a tiny subset of people. 

Today though, at least 80 percent of people can live in relative comfort compared to their forebears. And around 50 percent of people have enough money to jet off on holiday whenever they like or buy themselves designer shoes on a whim. Thus, we’re living in an age of plenty.

Charitable Giving

People of all traditions make a point of engaging in charitable giving - handing over resources to those who are less fortunate than them. But what is the purpose of practices like this? 

For some, it is purely spiritual - a way to identify with the divine. For others, it represents a genuine practical application of faith. Sometimes the right thing to do is pull somebody up and give them a chance to get their lives back on the straight and narrow again. Unavoidable things can quickly go wrong in people’s lives, and sometimes they can find themselves out on the streets, against their will, and through no fault of their own. Divorce, theft, and job loss are all real risks in the modern world. 


The relationship between faith and debt is also incredibly interesting. Some religions ban interest altogether, semi-outlawing debt. Others accept it as a part of life but appear to discourage it. 

Going into debt is sometimes a good idea. People who start businesses, for instance, often need to borrow from others to get them off the ground. 

Debt in the modern world, though, is much less healthy than it once was. People aren’t just borrowing to pay for their homes or education. Now they’re using credit cards to pay for gadgets they don’t need and trips to the casino. 

What’s more, it is becoming increasingly challenging to get out of debt. Governments often conspire with lenders to make escaping poverty as tricky as possible. Getting people to pay interest is lucrative. New services, like DTSS debt discharge, are popping up to change all this. But many people still don’t know about them. And that’s leading to mounting indebtedness and an inability to build wealth. 


The bible is quite ambiguous on saving - as made clear by the Parable of the Talents. Teachings recommend that people hold onto their money where possible and don’t spend it frivolously. But there is also a strong case for using it to make the world a better place. Investing successfully, it seems, is a virtue. 

Saving is something that people do to enable them to defer gratification. And that in itself is a kind of good thing to do. You’re putting off your desires to consume right now to build a better life in the future. 

Saving is also something that assists in increasing the productive potential of society. The more money people put away, the more investment can occur, and the deeper the capital structure of the economy can become. That’s why countries like Japan and China managed to get so rich so fast. People saved, invested in plant and machinery, and grew the productive capacity of the entire thing. 


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Finally, faith also has a lot to say about earning money. Money isn’t something that people should acquire for its own sake. Instead, it’s more of a tool that they can use to glorify the divine further. 

Think about how much more you can perform good works when you have plenty of financial resources behind you. You have the freedom to work less and help others more, whether it is your family or the local homeless at the soup kitchen.

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