Money: What It’s Good For

moneyThere is a single word that has overtaken contemporary US society, one concept that defines life in 21st century America: Security. Before you complete your online purchase, please establish a “secure” connection. Buy this alarm system or firearm to keep your loved ones “secure.” Our borders are porous and must be “secured.”

Terrorists are planning horrendous acts, thus, everyone has to go through “security.” Buy this software; it will keep your passwords, personal identity, and banking information safe and “secure.” This election vote for the President, Senator, Congressman, or Dogcatcher that will keep the nation “secure.”

So much for the days when there was “nothing to fear but fear itself.” Now there is everything to fear. Thus cars, computers, houses, politicians, pharmaceuticals, and wars are all marketed with fear as the motivating factor. Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to economics.

But to tell you the truth, if you are trusting your money to keep you “secure,” you probably should be afraid; it will never give you peace of mind. Don’t get me wrong. We all need a few dollars to keep food on the table, a roof over our heads, and pay the bills. Even a handful of investments, mutual funds, and IRAs are good for as far as they go. They just can’t go far enough.

Why? Because once you have a little pile of dough you have to go on guard duty. You go into perpetual protection mode, always on the wall, always peering out at the economic boogeymen, always defending, hedging, and hoarding. This produces mind-racing, palm-sweating, turf-defending worry, something about as far from contentment as one can get.

It’s as elemental as this: Our level of peace will depend upon what we depend upon, no more and no less. If the source of our security and well-being is this world’s economic promises, we should hire better money managers, take more medication, and stuff more gold coins under our mattresses. But if our subsistence is Christ, then no, life will not be easy, but the source of his strength is endless and the peace he offers surpasses all understanding.

Now, this doesn’t mean we build a bunker, stack canned goods, and buy an arsenal. That’s nothing but fear and anxiety run amok. No, we joyfully live in this world, but recognize it for how fragile it is. We see that ultimately it cannot meet our deepest needs.

That responsibility belongs to God, because it’s not a matter of “if” our stockpiles will fail us, it’s a matter of “when.” That’s not fear mongering, it’s simply stating that trusting Christ to give us what we need and sustain us is not near as dangerous as trusting a system that is bound to collapse.

To that end, a late friend of mine was a Word War II veteran who fought for General Patton. He helped liberate a number of concentration camps, was in Germany when the unconditional surrender was tendered in 1945, and on those rare moments when he spoke of the war, he told mind bending stories.

One such story involved his tank unit, late in the war, after it had crossed the Rhine River and was deep into Germany. Patton was moving at blazing speed, as was his style, so US forces had to forage from the land around them, as they were often without basic supplies. One severe shortage was paper goods, and war or not, this was a crisis.

So the servicemen began using German Reichsmarks, the German currency, as toilet paper. twenties, fifties, thousands – it didn’t matter the denomination – it was just paper. The currency that had driven the finances of Europe, that had financed the effort for world domination was now worthless, useful only for the latrines and as kindling to start fires.

My old friend would tell that story, belly laugh at the memory of it, but would then make the same point each and every time: “Money, in the end, ain’t worth much, ‘cept for wipin’ your end.” I think he was right.

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