When I had a church in New England, my husband and I developed a friendship with the funeral director, so he often asked us to do services. It was an honor to do them, and it was really nice to get the check.
Brian was at home, taking care of our young daughter, and we were very grateful that we were able to have a parent caring for her. But the money got tight. We lived frugally (no cell phone, no internet, no cable, no new clothes, etc.). But it still seemed like every cent we had went on another bill.
But not the funeral money. For some reason, we always spent that money. We called it our “folk art fund.” We deposited the check right away and before it was gone to an unexpected house or car repair, we went to our favorite shops and spent it. We would laugh with the storeowners, who would see us coming and ask, “Who died?”
It was one of my favorite memories. At a time when we could rarely afford Christmas, we would hold a little celebration for ourselves every couple of months. And now we have a house full of odds and ends, little things that we picked up which remind us of those tender first years as pastors.
I had a deep internal struggle too, at the time. Actually, I still do.
I was trying really hard to be a good steward, in the sense that I was not buying things. I tried not to consume. Not only because we couldn’t afford it, but also because I was trying to be counter-cultural, to opt out of our debt-and-spend society. I always asked myself, “Is it a need or is it a want?” And if it was a want, it went back on the shelf.
But…I also could not deny it, buying things, in cold hard cash, gave me a certain pleasure. Purchasing something handmade and beautiful, a piece of artwork that we didn’t “need” was a really lovely thing.
It was about that time that someone said me, “One reason to have money is to enjoy it.”
It was a shock to me. Really. I thought of money as evil, the core of everything bad. As a clergy person, I was fighting against money, and for the spiritual things.
In Texas, a father, with two preteen daughters, who had just gone through an awful divorce, decided to give his daughters an “alternative gift” that Christmas. The daughters were living with their mom, and had rare visits with dad. I advised him not to go that route. The girls needed to know, in every possible way, that he loved them. It was an important moment in their lives. He needed to give the gift, because that’s often how we show love and affection in our society.
There are ways of going too far, for sure. There are times when we try to buy the affection of others. We don’t acknowledge that we’re consuming far too much of the world’s resources.
Yet, even as counter-cultural Christians must we give all of our gifts to the Heifer Project? Can we have some guilt-free room to enjoy the beauty of giving and receiving? Can we think of money as a spiritual thing–a positive spiritual thing? Can we learn to enjoy money?
photo’s by planeta