Tuesday, March 14, 2006

What Money is Useful For

I've never heard a sermon on Luke 16:9, in which Yeshua advises his followers to use their money to "buy friends".
And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.
It seems a bit uncouth. Not devious, but base.

I realize that my paraphrase of "buying friends" puts a biased slant on the issue.  Yeshua is partly discussing a practical strategy for a society without insurance policies: when you have money be generous to your friends who do not have much, so that when your circumstances switch they might reciprocate.

One evening last week, my wife and I had a long conversation about people's spending habits. Towards the end of this conversation we wondered if people could be categorized as those who valued money for the security it can provide (the people who save unbudgeted money) and those who valued money for the comforts it can provide (the people who spend unbudgeted money).

This was a somewhat amusing dichotomy, for money really does not do either of those well. It can provide some security, but savings can quickly vanish and many kinds of troubles cannot be fixed with money. It can provide some comforts, but real lasting contentment cannot be purchased -- those who try always desire buying yet more things.

The two things that Yeshua suggests people do with money (give to charity and buy friends) are at least things that money does do well. Those who need food or clothing can be fed and clothed. And people to whom you have been generous often help you in your times of need.

UPDATE: Proverbs 17:8, 13, 23 add more practical advice. A gift (not a "bribe", as is sometimes translated) can be precious in the eyes of the giver if used to help him prosper. But do not use gifts to reward evil, or the evil will worsen. And do not give gifts in secret, for then it perverts justice (i.e., it becomes a bribe).