The Use of Money

The Use of Money June 3, 2024

Can there be such a thing as too much money? Most people would say “No!” However, in truth, people can have more money than they need, more money than they should keep for themselves.

Oh, I can hear the screams now: “I earned that money! It’s mine! What are you? Some kind of wacko socialist?” Others like Joel Osteen say, “The Lord has blessed me with bounty. God wants me to be rich.” What about the other people who are not so blessed? Well, that’s God’s business (and, they imply, “judgment”).

In actuality, the distribution of wealth is probably not a reflection of God’s blessings so much as it is a test of your character. If you are wealthy, what will you do with the money? Jesus said to a rich man:

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he was very rich.

“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Matthew 19:21-24)

Sell everything? Seriously? Well, for some people, like St. Francis of Assisi, that’s exactly what they do. Yet even if you hang on to a few treasures, you can share in a meaningful, make-a-difference way. We could solve many world problems if only rich people realized they don’t need the yachts, the jewelry, the multiple houses, and so on as much as others need their help.

No One Should Be a Billionaire

A friend of mine wrote on Facebook that no one should be a billionaire. She decried Taylor Swift’s billionaire status, but people countered that Swift is very generous and, after all, her net worth is not all in cash, etc.

A bit of research shows that Swift gives away about 10% of her worth, which is much more generous than most rich people who, shockingly, give only 1-5% of their net worth. I read though that Swift just bought a mansion in London. So, she nonetheless spends lavishly on luxuries for herself, even if she gives $100 tips to the stadium staff at her boyfriend’s football games.

My friend suggested that Swift give away half her liquid assets, then use her talents to regain what she gave away (shouldn’t be that hard for her), then rinse and repeat. Good idea! No one needs to be a billionaire. Nor do we need obscene extravagance like that at awards shows. Did you know that the gift bags at the Golden Globes totaled around $500,000 for 83 bags? That’s over $6000 per bag, although they varied in value, and one was worth up to $41,500! For a gift bag to an already very wealthy person? Does that make sense?

Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash

The Impact of Money Well Spent

Consider, in contrast, the amount needed to make a significant difference in the life of someone in financial need. LoveLine, an organization that provides comprehensive case management for pregnant and parenting women and families with multiple complex needs, reported the following expenditures for a recent month: $5,948 in tuition/books

$1,973 in household goods, clothing, food, hygiene, and baby registries

$9,296 in rent/housing assistance

$1,978 in utility payments

$3,575 in mental health services

$1,620 in transportation expenses (including vehicle payments and maintenance)

This list adds up to 193 total services for 65 clients at a cost of $24,390, or an average of $375/client. What if a celebrity or other wealthy person gave $400/month to LoveLine or directly to a pregnant woman who is desperate for help. That much money wouldn’t be missed one iota by a rich person, but it means survival to a mom in need.

Another stunning example: For just $19.80, the Education and Life Foundation can put together a food package (with detergent and soap) to feed a pregnant mother for a month, keeping her and her baby healthy with good nutrition and hygiene. It’s shocking that such a small amount could buy so much and save the life of a woman and her baby!

Think then of what a difference a wealthy person could make to multiple lives. Those $100 bills that Taylor Swift passed out could feed many mothers over several months. What an impact that would be!

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

The Benefits of Philanthropy

Fundraising works best when people know exactly where their money will go and what it will do. They are more generous when they can see the impact and feel that they made a difference.

Case in point: Heifer International. Donors know that a specific amount can buy a heifer, a goat, a llama, or another such productive animal, and they are told how that animal will positively affect the recipient’s livelihood.

Just as volunteering time makes people feel better about themselves, so does using one’s money for others. Even someone like Paris Hilton, who reputedly spent $50K on a tote bag for her dog, would surely feel gratified by a donation that lifts people out of poverty or saves lives. Then again, some people just don’t care. Other people’s problems are not theirs.

There is a scene in Schindler’s List when Schindler realizes that if he hadn’t wasted money on extravagant living he would have been able to buy more Jewish people out of the camps. He is devastated by the terrible cost of his own selfishness.

As Christ said, it is better to sell what you possess and give to the poor. You will have greater satisfaction through love and good works and greater treasures in heaven than worldly goods could ever provide.

About Lois Kerschen
There have been many different titles for the work I have done – Educator, Writer, Editor, Administrator – but the one that has applied to me from birth is that of Catholic. With rare exceptions, I am in a pew on Sunday trying to be attentive and prayerful. My mind wanders a lot, and not just to problems or plans, but also to what I would like to say about things I hear in the homily or the readings. Thus the name “Musings from the Pew.” So here is my chance. This column will be about life as a Catholic and the challenges we face. I have been a pro-life activist for many years, so life issues as related to the Church will be mentioned from time to time. I have also traveled to a lot of parishes, so I want to share what I have seen or experienced with other Catholics in a different setting. Call it “The Wandering Pew” within “Musings from the Pew.” My blogs will not be theological treatises but the observations and suggestions of an active, answer-seeking mind. I find great joy in the Catholic faith and want to defend the Church so that others may find that joy. You can read more about the author here.

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