by Alex Haney
I thought I understood economic discipleship when I finished Lazarus at the Gate. I was paying attention to where my stuff comes from, sacrificing some conveniences to save a few bucks, keeping track of the savings, and writing a check at the end of the month to support a non-profit. It became a fun game; save money and give it away. I stopped buying junk food so my money could feed someone else, started biking to work, and took a bus on vacation home to Virginia saving several hundred on transportation costs. I was very committed to living simply to give generously, but still had much to learn.
Then life happened.
My 38 year old cousin Sarah died unexpectedly after a heart attack after finishing a half marathon leaving behind two young kids. She was one of 14 of my closest cousins and I really needed to go home, but the cheapest flight was $508.00!!!
For someone who had been paying attention to every penny I earned, $508 was a lot of money. I considered staying in Boston to save that $508, but felt torn about the need to be home. I thought of all the kids who would be able to go to school for the first time or get clean drinking water with that amount. I wanted to put their needs ahead of my own and almost missed what was important. It was hard for me to choose between saving money and family. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for people who aren’t even privileged with a choice in this type of situation. It was a tough decision to make.
I was ready to stay, but my dad reminded me that coming home was to support family and my own self-care. Grieving together was needed for all of us cousins. He let me know that, he could get the ticket and we could worry about the money later. “Money isn’t what’s important right now” he said. Those words ran deep.
In my zealous quest to save as much money as I could, I almost ignored people very close to me at a uniquely tragic time. God calls us to minister to those who are in need. The 3 billion people living on less than $2 a day need God’s love, but so do people from all economic backgrounds. I almost put money (albeit saving money to give away) before my own family. I went home on that pricey flight. Sure I owe my dad some money but, I’m glad I went, and thankful that I am blessed to have access to the resources to get home.
I found some guidance in Paul’s words to Timothy. “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” 1Timothy 6:9-11
“Ruin,” “destruction,” and “many griefs” Paul says, are the results of the love of money, “the root of all kinds of evil”. Any time those are the result of saving money, such as not being with my family in a tragedy like this, saving money is a problem.
In your own economic discipleship endeavors make sure you are pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Don’t get swept up in the penny pinching and the saving. It can be hard. Take it seriously and ask yourself, “is money what’s important right now?” Don’t miss out on what’s important to you and to God. If you stop eating out, or going to the movies to save money, find other ways to hang out with friends. If you switch to biking to save money, stretch a lot, read the rules, and wear a helmet. Take steps for proper care of yourself and relationships. Sacrifice and challenge are good; self deprecation and harm are not. Keep economics in your discipleship, but be mindful of the kingdom, it’s bigger than money. Even in saving it, money must be a tool for discipleship—our servant and not our master. God is our master.
Family is important to me and I need to budget for that. What is important to you? and what do you ponder about in your economic discipleship quests? Tell us on facebook or firstname.lastname@example.org.