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Financial Foolishness

October 3, 2008

As more information surfaces about the source of the current financial earthquake in America, I can’t help but return to a simple notion. Greed is gross. It’s selfish, dark, sinister, destructive. It’s making money into a burnt offering to oneself.

And it’s everywhere in our culture—sometimes it’s some politician’s name in the paper, other times it’s us caving in and following the cultural trend.  Greed can be subtle, and, as we’ve seen, it can be Dow-shaking. It’s the world’s wisdom manifested in finances, and it’s being preached in every corner of our society.
So as Christians in this midst of this gross financial philosophy, how do we respond?   How can we counteract a culture of greed? What would that look like?
We know that love is always the antidote to sin. Loving God, loving others.  Christ has called us to this simple—yet infinitely complicated—injunction.  We are to love through all of our actions and all of our means.  We know that.  But still, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.
Perhaps, in the case of greed, the answer is found in the redemption of money, returning it to its original source and purpose. Perhaps instead of reinforcing a false economic philosophy with our cash, we can spread the gospel through our finances. As Christians we have the potential to counteract a culture of greed with a culture of generosity.
When I think generosity, I always think about a longtime friend of mine, Chris. Chris is a personal model of generosity for me. A mutual friend of ours once summed up Chris’s generosity in a simple statement. He said, “Chris really understands that everything he has isn’t really his.” Chris understood the true source of any of his material means, and his response was the same response of the early Christians in Acts. He gave it up and he gave it out.  He gave responsibly and with no strings attached.
Generosity and strings-free giving makes no sense to this world. In a world of supply and demand graphs it’s just plain “foolishness,” as Paul told us the gospel would be. And perhaps that is what is so striking about generosity. It clashes with this world—in a way that can be very powerful.
Someone who gives consistently to a ministry, with no immediate or recognizable benefit to themselves, sends a shockwave with every offering.  Giving is one of the most profound things we can do as Christians. It’s not only an acknowledgment of the true source of all of our resources, it’s also a chance to do with money something most of our society won’t let us do—to love with it.  And that’s really the point. In the right attitude and motivation, giving can be a financial manifestation of love.
This is a great comfort to me, this power of generosity. It gives me great hope to realize that even the most humble offering can shake up a greedy world in more ways than the Dow can measure.

-John Bickley

John is currently working on his PhD in Humanities at FSU and serves as a TA for the Humanities and Communications programs, an instructor at Christ Classical Academy, and a coach for Capital City Rowing.

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