Dr Kochurani Joseph ponders on the value of wealth and money in today’s world from a Christian perspective

“Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth” (Deut. 8: 17-18).

Astory goes like this. A man once approached his parish priest about his confusion regarding a vow he made to God. Many years back while attending a retreat, this man came to know about the significance of giving tithe – the practice of giving one tenth of one’s income to God and his Church. Almost immediately he made the decision to give about 500 Rupees, then one tenth of his income. Gradually as time went by, his income increased, and now he has reached the situation where he would have to give about 10,000 Rupees as tithe offering. Should he be giving so much of his hard earned money to the Church was his profound conundrum. Now the vicar being a very wise man had a simple solution to the problem – “Do not worry”, he said, “I will surely pray that God may resolve your confusion by reversing you to your original income so that you don’t have to pay more than 500 Rupees”.

Money is one of the most significant advances in the evolution of human civilization. As the economy of societies moved from the exchange of goods and services under Barter system to a system based primarily on the transaction of money, human beings also began looking at ways to earn money. When Jesus says, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s,’’ he advocates a prudent outlook towards wealth and money. Wealth creation and preservation, including every one of our endeavors towards making and increasing money/wealth ought to be done in a balanced way – with a true missionary spirit. And the first step in achieving this is to have the right and proper attitude towards wealth and money.

In Deuteronomy chapter 8: 17-18 we read God reiterating to the Israelites how everything that they have comes from Him. “Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth”. This ability comes to us in different ways and forms – for some through intellectual capacity and for some others through business acumen or through excelling in sports or through a capacity to teach others or care for others. Most of us build our careers/businesses upon these God given abilities, and so in reality we have not much to be proud of what we have really achieved in life. It is foolish to then think that we own our possessions and we can do whatever we please with it. Deuteronomy 8: 11-18 is an invitation to always be aware that God indeed is the source of all our wealth and success.

The possession and handling of wealth and money, by their very nature has profound social implications. A wise financial planning ought to incorporate the below:

1. Being always aware that our wealth/ money is a gift of God and we are only the stewards.

2. Being a gift of God, one should never use crooked ways to earn/preserve money and it has to earned through the sweat of one’s brows.

3. The preservation or sustenance of wealth has to be done only through just means.

4. Being aware of the needs to the people around and one’s social responsibilities.

Gandhi often spoke about the seven dangers to human virtue – also known as social sins: wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, business without ethics, science without humanity, religion without sacrifice and politics without principle. The words of prophet Haggai are still relevant – wealth without God often doesn’t have a happy ending. Even though money is essential for our worldly life, yet if we become such people that money is our only capital, then truly we are the poorest of the poor.