Monday, July 22, 2013

The Stuff People Spend Money On

I was recently driving home from helping my brother move some furniture and flipping through the radio stations when a bit of DJ banter caught my attention. They were going on about the usual Hollywood gossip that doesn't interest me at all but what stayed my finger above the seek button was a mention of the projected income for Britain from the “Royal Baby” of Kate Middleton and Prince William. The number they spoke seemed astronomical to me, $121 million was the number one DJ threw out while the other went on to list some of the trinkets and experiences that were being sold to interested parties. Being a moderately skeptical person I did a little research and found that this number is one of the more conservative estimates with some experts quoting figures as high as $400 million. My initial reaction was that of disgust at the fact that out there were millions of people spending money on such frivolities that surround that child of someone they will never see in person let alone know. I began to crunch numbers about how much good this money could do if applied properly, as I often do when I hear about outrageous uses of large sums of money (which if you are weird like I am; the low estimate, 121 million, could feed over 1.5 million children for a year according to Feed My Starving Children’s donation page).

 I was a few equations in when I realize that I had to stop myself. I was unjustly judging these nameless, faceless people whom I know nothing about. I was ashamed at their frivolity when I had no knowledge of their true natures or motives. I heard that number and in a way told myself I was better than them because of what they were spending their money on.  I do the same thing whenever I see someone extremely wealthy, even before I hear or see an action of theirs my mind wants to wander to the ways in which I would use the money more wisely. It is all too easy for me to see the wealthy people in the world and call them out for not sharing their riches without knowing the truth of their finances.I play the "what if" game in my head and believe it or not I come out looking like a pretty stand up guy compared to whoever they are interviewing on MTV cribs that day. It is especially difficult for me to see someone sitting in a church pew making a six figure income and knowing that the pastor and his family are living paycheck to paycheck. Instead of ever knowing how they may have helped others I take my limited knowledge and form a quick judgement about them.

I quickly took the opportunity to reflect on myself and my own lust for money. Let me tell you, it was uncomfortable. 

I spend plenty of money on non-necessities every day. I enjoy video games and movies, neither of which is essential to my existence. I go out to restaurants that would be considered beyond lavish in many countries without a second thought. Who am I to declare that these people should be spending their money in any other way than what they have already done? Just because the perfect self I have in my own head would do something different the real me isn't so sure I would. Is it important to want to take care of the needy? Yes but blaming others for not “doing their part” is not the way to go about it. It is hard for me to want to give up on my luxuries just as it is hard for everyone to. I live in a pretty low income part of town and there are plenty of days where I pass a homeless person on my way to buy groceries. I would love to help everyone I pass but sometimes it's just not in the budget. On the other side of it, if my bank account suddenly grew a few extra zeros would I still be in such a generous mood? Would my desire to give money away disappear with extravagant wealth? It is incredibly easy to say that we would act a certain way in a given scenario. It’s easy to give away something that isn't ours; it becomes that much more difficult to actually put my money where my mouth’s at (a perfect use for that phrase if there ever was one).

Those faceless people I judged earlier may already have donated their money and time to charity; why not let them find some joy in a goofy trinket about some famous baby? The wealthy woman in the pew next to me might have tithed plenty of her income and the church is struggling for some completely unrelated reason. That CEO might not believe what I believe about the world, so how can I justly look down on him for not living to my same credo? Besides if I were in his shoes could I say for certain I would spend any differently? Sure, in a perfect world the money spent on non-essentials would go to help those that don't have enough for necessities, but the world we live in is far from perfect and God gave us the ability to chose what we do in our lives. Who I am to judge others based on what they do with what they have been given, I am only responsible for what I do with what I have been given. God won’t look at me on judgment day and tally up percentages of giving; He will look at me alone and pass judgment on my actions without comparing them to the actions of another. Nor will He grant me any greater reward for passing judgement on those around me, and He surely will hold me accountable for the times when my anger was unjustified. I will face Him alone and when the time comes I would certainly be deemed unworthy. Thankfully I will have someone there who made sure that my selfishness and unrighteous judgement will not be held against me. 

P.S. The radio DJ’s got me thinking about this but some of the ideas were inspired by a great blog written by the guys in the great band Emery, check out their thoughts on a similar topic here . 

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