My daughter has been awarded a prize because of her excellent exam results. More money than she's ever had before. Aware of the cost of university fees, she listed for us what she will do with the money- some for herself, some for fees, some for study materials, and a surprising amount which she would give away.
My heart lurched. Generosity, care for the world... compassion. Perhaps we have not done so badly as parents!
Yet I suggested the money not be given away. We did that... working overtime in low paid jobs for love of God. Giving away what spare we had... this translation project, that tree project... that animal breeding project... ploughing money back into our own work because funding was not there for the resources we needed. So we paid for it.
Now we are the exhausted, educated poor. We have degrees. We have done great good in our work sometimes. But we are tired. We live from pay to pay, and one social security cheque to the next. We own no house, no car, and have nothing in the bank.
In the old days the church spoke of poverty, chastity and obedience. I'm not sure what 'poverty' meant then, but poverty now has nothing spiritual about it. It is denigrating. It is humiliating. Poor people are abused by our social system. Politicians blame them for their own governmental and policy shortcomings. Spendthrift, sick, ripped off by a company, sacked by a multinational, too old to get a job.... no matter, IT IS ALL YOUR FAULT.... always.
Poverty is a curse. It is evil. It is inhuman. It says in Timothy that the love of money is the root of all evil. It is. It causes other people's poverty and screws up our sense of what is right and important.
What would have been far more spiritual in my youth would have been to put all that money in the bank, or invest it. I could be well on the way to owning a place to live in by now. In interest I could be giving away by now the same amount as I used to when I had something of a decent paying job. And a trust could keep doing it after my death. There would be something voluntary about my poverty, and a spiritual tussle to leave the money in the bank for others and not spend it.
And now, when I have some wisdom- only some- I could use it, rather than be exhausted trying to survive with no more money than I had at 21, plus debt, teenagers, and less energy.
So I have suggested a different way for this beloved child of mine to harness her compassion and sense of justice. And I will say no more. Like my parents with me, I will simply have to watch, and listen, and help when I am asked. This child, too, must live her own life.
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