September 20, 2022, 7:00 AM

Franciscan Fractals:

     “Money and a Contented Soul”   

There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. Timothy 6:6-8

Content with just food and clothes? Come on, Paul. What’s wrong with a few dishes and silverware? A bed (with sheets)? A car? A house with heat (and maybe air conditioning)? Maybe a vacation every once in a while? Perhaps a retirement account? And, the list grows!

The underlying core of being human is to want just a little bit more . . . and then, a little bit more . . . and then more. Nothing seems to satisfy the urge to acquire more. The desire to have more than what we need always comes at the expense of someone or something else. God gives us an abundance to meet all of our needs in this world. The feeling of “not having enough” causes us to take more than we need, and leave others without.

St. Francis was set to inherit a great deal of wealth from his father. In pursuing godliness, he threw away everything that he owned (including the clothes he was wearing). He learned to be content with possessing little except God’s presence.

St. Francis embraced a way of life that saw money and religious conviction opposed to one another. Religion and godliness could only be pursued as long as money was out of the picture.

Religion and money nonetheless have been joined intimately throughout Christian history. The vocabulary of religion includes multiple examples of money, especially in terms of commerce. For example, we might say in our conversations that Jesus paid the debt for our sins, or we seek to earn our salvation (a poor theology), or we are in danger of losing our soul, or we will gain a place in heaven, or we need to do penance to pay the price for a sin.

Likewise, commerce frequently acquires the vocabulary of religion. We forgive debts, grant “grace periods” for repayments, enjoy indemnity, reconcile accounts, and even redeem coupons. When money and religion are joined in a soulful balance, we find a way to respectfully deepen our spirituality.1

When money becomes the dominant driving force in our lives, we lose our soul and forget that we are here because of grace, and not because of what we do or earn. With money being a goal, we end up knowing only how to count, weigh, measure, dole out, judge, label, earn, expel, and compete with one another.

We become calculating beings, instead of a consoling people; and our faith becomes transactional (meaning God will do something for us because we did something for God) instead of transformational.2 No wonder so many churches are imploding today as they attempt to grow by aiming for numbers instead of a soulful balance.

Jesus response to the dominant driving force of money was to overthrow the tables of the money changers in the temple. He did not take the money. Jesus simply disrupted the system.

What tables do you need to overthrow in order to regain a soulful balance between your money and your religious convictions?

Peace and prayers,

Fr. John Meulendyk

1Eisenstein, Charles. (2011). Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition. Berkeley, North Atlantic Books.

2Rohr, Richard. (2020). What Do We Do with Money? unpublished notes, Center for Action and Contemplation

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