I couldn’t make heads or tails of the parable for today from Luke’s Gospel. But I found myself musing about the use of money. Three uses occurred to me. There is money that is invested in the magic realm of the stock exchange, that generates more money (at least in good times) for its owners. Then there is money that is put into a bank, and there it idles. And finally there is money invested in the well being of people and the planet – money spent on educating people, on giving them cook stoves and water wells, chickens and tools – money spent on preserving land – money spent on all sorts of necessary research. I realized that in the most dire of circumstances only the third type of investment would make any difference at all. The third kind of investment creates something real, something that lasts.
Down the street from me a neighborhood of Habitat for Humanity houses is growing. Real people gather on its porches. Real children play in the little playground that is part of the development. Folks without opportunity were given a leg up, here, and their lives are changed forever.
Down the road In the other direction is one of my favorite museums, the Discovery Center. Here, anytime, we have real opportunities for learning. We get to see pictures and descriptions of endangered species in our area. We get to play musical instruments and learn about sound. We get to build solar cars and learn about healthy ecosystems. The Center makes a real and lasting difference in how people understand and care for their world.
Here in my own home, I use money to feed and clothe myself and my family so that we can go out and be God’s emissaries for love. We have a real, stable roof over our heads, enough money to repair things that are breaking, and money for food and clothing – oh, and books, of course. Lots of books. This is all essential if we are going to do the jobs God has given us to do. But I need to pay attention to what is enough – what is real – what lasts.
Perhaps God is using this musing of mine to direct me to a renewed understanding of what is real in God’s eyes. I don’t think wealth is real. Not really. I don’t think God cares about what sort of financial empire we have built, except in its impact on our immortal souls and the good of our neighbors and the planet.
What qualifies is helping people in need. What qualifies is restoring ecosystems. What qualifies is educating people so they can make good decisions about how to use their resources for the good of all. What qualifies is educating ourselves on racism and privilege, sexism, ageism, heterosexism, and disabilities. What qualifies is helping folks when they are in emotional distress, and helping them to find God, the real God, the one who loves us with utter abandon. What qualifies is what we know, through having discerned it, to be our own unique ministry. What qualifies is what lasts.