Public discussion of personal finances

G. Jeffrey MacDonald

Marcus Goodyear
June 16, 2011

It all depends on the group. If I trust the people in my small group, I can share this kind of detail. But it would still be hard if there were much economic diversity in the room. Describing our spending habits with an average family income to someone who struggles to pay bills with twice our income or half our income would be difficult. I can imagine resentments rising up very quickly.

Steven Severt
June 18, 2011

I agree with goodword that this could cause resentment and could be difficult in certain groups or with certain people, but if everyone in the group agreed to discuss the issue honestly, I'd go for it.  I really liked this article, and would love to see something like this at my church.  I've noticed myself spending less and less on me over the last year, then trying to give little bits to ministries that have been inspirational to me.  I'm not talking about large sums, but more like 10 bucks every couple of weeks to places that I had never given to in the past.  It's been a great feeling for me, and I'd like to see myself doing it more and with larger sums in the future.

Steven Severt
June 19, 2011

P.S. I liked this enough to respond on my blog <a href="http://www.99shadesofgrey.wordpress.com" rel="nofollow">http://www.99shadesofgrey.word...</a>

June 19, 2011

I wonder if that resentment might not be healthy, in the long run.<br>I'd link this discussion to the one below by Bethany, where she talks about which denominations have more poverty and about the importance of economic diversity in the Church; if the local church <i>doesn't</i> contain those who are long-term unemployed, struggling to get by, undocumented immigrants, or others who are looking down the business end of the Howitzer that is this economy, then in what sense can the Gospel be said to be "good news for the poor"?<br><br>Those who make half as much or twice as much as you do might begin to fairly ask what exactly it is about their work and their effort, that makes it worth half as much or twice as much as yours. The unemployed person might begin to fairly ask what exactly it is about the system we live in that deems his or her labor unworthy of compensation while yours is deemed worthy—or, if you're unemployed, those who do have work might begin to fairly ask what it is about the system that deems their labor worthy of compensation while yours apparently isn't. <br><br>They might begin to ask if the way our economy assigns value to labor is a fair or equitable one—and, more importantly, whether the standards by which our economy assigns value to labor are moral or Godly standards, whether they are in line with God's crystal-clear position standing with the poor and oppressed. <br><br>As Christians who believe the Scripture, they might look at the way our economy assigns value to labor and ask what the consequences are if we take seriously the idea that God will judge the nations—and what the consequences are for us personally and corporately in the Church if we take Matthew 25 seriously and believe that God will judge us based on what we did for "the least of these."<br><br>Discussions of micro-level wealth inequality could trigger questions about macro-level wealth inequality. Is our economy serving the people, or are the people serving the economy? Who is our economic system set up to benefit, and who is it set up to detriment or oppress? <br><br>Why is it that the CEO's 40-60 hours per week sitting at his or her desk are worth millions or billions of dollars in wages, stock options, bonuses, etc., while the 40-60 hours per week of actual labor from the person who cleans the CEO's office at night doesn't even merit enough money to support a family on, basic health benefits, or a pension? <br><br>And what is the Church's witness in this? What can the Church say about what is one of the crucial moral issues of our time? How can the church prophetically call the wealthy to forego their wealth, give it to the poor, and take massive income cuts in order to more fairly compensate those who work for them or their businesses? What hope can the Church give to those who are being oppressed by the wealthy's economic system? How can the Church call political and societal leaders to put in place policies and social norms that benefit the poor instead of lining the pockets of the rich—and what consequences can the Church create for them if they continue to work in favor of the rich instead of the poor?<br><br>In short, if discussed in a loving, open, honest way, I think the potential for resentment created by the inequality of wealth within a small group or a church could spur a group or church to get serious about the crucial moral question of wealth inequality in our society. And right now, our society <i>desperately</i> needs the Church to witness to God's position on that issue.

Josh Larsen
TC Staff
June 20, 2011

Thanks for making the connection to Bethany's earlier post James. For those interested, here is a link to it: <a href="http://bit.ly/k3778C" rel="nofollow">http://bit.ly/k3778C</a>

June 24, 2011

Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's:   the govt. stamp is on our money; we live in a society; there are economic/social claims and requirements upon citizens of any land. Nothing is truly "ours"---prosperity or lack of it is tied as much to opportunity as it is to effort.<br>Render unto God that which is God's:  God's stamp---his image, his seal of our baptism, is on us, with all his claims and requirements of us.  We are not our own, but belong body and soul to him.<br>In either rendering, we wish to remain the individual, independent, focused more on our sense of "rights" v. needs of neighbor, stranger, society, humanity.<br>We begrudge what living in a society asks/requires of us, we begrudge being asked to seek justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly, by the one who made us---especially if it involves money.

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