Where Our Treasure Is

Not long ago my wife had a conversation with a financial adviser   She’d worked for many years at a large non-profit and they’d been putting money aside for her in a 401(b) (the non-profit version of a 401(k)).  She hadn’t paid much attention–statements came, the account kept growing.  Then she left that work to spend more time with our daughter and she started getting letters that said that it was time for her to find someplace else to put her money–an IRA, etc.

The trouble is that we’re those finicky types who don’t like blood with our cash.  We don’t want to invest in the kinds of companies we sign petitions against or whose products we refuse to buy.  We don’t want to invest in companies that would never be allowed to operate in the kingdom of God.  That makes it really difficult for us to invest in the normal channels–try to find a publicly traded company that doesn’t have some environmental, labor, or other moral problem.  It is very difficult.  What’s more difficult is that there isn’t really enough transparency at most companies to have the answers to the kinds of questions we’re asking.  We kept dancing around the issue–where will we put our money, which isn’t really our money?

Still the money was there and it had to go someplace (I guess).  So my wife called this financial adviser who was quick to tell us that he too was a Christian.  He started going into all the different options with my wife, the different strategies and how they would result in this or that pay out in the thirty five years we have until “retirement”.  My wife explained that we weren’t really concerned with our payout in thirty five years as much as investing in companies that were morally good and not investing in those companies that are morally evil.  “Like tobacco and alcohol companies,” the adviser asked trying to understand this strange idea.  No not really, my wife thought, but didn’t push it as it became more and more clear this wasn’t our guy.

This financial adviser  who mostly networks through Christian groups, then told my wife that it was important “not to let your emotions get too involved in investing.”  My wife said that emotions weren’t really her problem, ethics were.  The man said that he’d love to talk with her husband.  My wife politely got off the phone.

We still don’t know what to do with that money.  We keep thinking about just taking the tax hit as a donation to Obamacare and then investing the remainder in the kinds of things that will last past the fall of this economy, this Empire of greed.  No solution is clean and clear, but what we do know is that where our treasure is, there our heart is also.  This money is by no means our treasure, we’d be just fine without it even existing, but we do know that it has the ability to corrupt our treasure–the kingdom of God coming into the world, reconciling all things, liberating the oppressed.  Not only are our emotions involved in this question, our soul is as well.

About Ragan Sutterfield

Ragan Sutterfield is a writer and Episcopal seminarian sojourning from his native Arkansas in Alexandria, Virginia. He is the author of Cultivating Reality: How the Soil Might Save Us, Farming as a Spiritual Discipline and a contributor to the book Sacred Acts: How churches are working to protect the Earth’s climate. Ragan’s articles and essays have appeared in a variety of magazines including Triathlete, The Oxford American, and Books & Culture. He works to live the good life with his wife Emily and daughter Lillian.


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