Father, would you please preach about money? It will help.
I am on the returning leg of a business trip, which was, incidentally, at a Catholic monastery. I presented a fundraising and communications audit to a community of women religious. It’s my privilege to open up a conversation about money—needs, vision, and sources of support. It’s my job to talk about the things you don’t say in polite company.
But as I write this in the airport, I am struck by the realization that in the last 48 hours I have used my credit card at least five times.
During the same two days, I am sorry to say that I only prayed once, maybe twice if you count grace before one of my meals. (That’s correct, only one of the meals.) Full confession: I also did not pick up the Bible in my room at the retreat center either. I am not proud of this.
I was literally in a place where ora is the main labora, and I used a credit card and payment apps on my phone more than I prayed.
Those sown among thorns are another sort. They are the people who hear the word, but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit. (Mk 4: 18-19)
I might be sown among thorns. But, I hope I can become better.
The thing is, I thought about the fact that I had not prayed. I’m thinking about it now. I know I’m wrong. I know that this breaks my relationship with God. I am writing with a healthy dose of guilt. But, I did not think twice about making purchases. (Ugh. Double guilt.)
The thorn of “craving other things” has been stuck in my thumb or lodged in my eye for so long that I don’t feel it anymore. It’s the underbelly of upper-middle income privilege. I’m not alone. I am willing to bet I'm not the only person who spends more time in stores (even just grocery stores) than in the chapel.
Baudelaire said that the devil’s greatest trick is convincing us that he doesn’t exist. My purchases were not evil. I bought things I need—the Uber ride to the airport, dinner at Subway. Etc., etc. (Well, perhaps I didn’t need the latte and blueberry muffin at Caribou Coffee.) But, I had no real awareness of spending money. It was easy, quick, and painless.
I know, Father, that you are uncomfortable preaching about money. Maybe you don’t want to offend. Maybe you don’t want us to think that you are always asking for money. Maybe you were poor (or rich) growing up. Maybe you are waiting for permission. Maybe you’re a capitalist, or a socialist, or you have no informed opinion on economics. I don’t care. Jesus lived and taught way before Marx, and Keynes, and Friedman.
But, Jesus talked a lot about using money. A widow gave her last coin to build God’s Kingdom. A master expected servants to multiply his resources—not bury them in the dirt. And so on... So, let God speak through you. Help us clear the brush of thorny Facebook ads, prosperity gospel nonsense, and super-slick, easy, and painless purchasing power.
Help us prune. Help us reclaim a holy vocabulary and theology of money. Help us use money for holy purposes. Please, would you preach about money. It will help.