18 July 2021

On The Love Of Money

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil: which some reaching after have been led astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 

It is dangerous to look at a single verse in isolation and out of context. How much more dangerous, then, can it be to dwell upon a single word?  Yet I am time and again struck by the presence of a single word in this passage from 1 Timothy--"money".

Money vs Wealth

Consider the definition of "money".
something generally accepted as a medium of exchange, a measure of value, or a means of payment
 Consider also the definition of "wealth".
abundance of valuable material possessions or resources
We often use these terms interchangeably, as if to imply that money is wealth and wealth is money. Yet at their core they are not the same; their meanings tell us explicitly they are not the same.  Money is not wealth; wealth is not money. 

Money offers us nothing of comfort or of sustenance until we use it, and, once used, it is gone. Wealth is of a far more durable nature, it can be used, and enjoyed, time and again--indeed is meant to be used, and enjoyed, time and again.  

Which invites the question, why not counsel against wealth, against the love of wealth? Why rail against the love of money in particular? It is worth noting that words such as "wealth" and "riches" are found throughout the Bible, so it strains credulity to suppose the Apostle Paul was guilty of a slip of semantic slovenliness in this passage. The counsel here is to beware a love of money, not of wealth.

Why might this be?

Money Has No Value

It has long been my thought--truly, it is not my thought but one I first heard in high school economics that has stayed with me over the years--that it is a question of focus.  Money is a measure of value, but it is itself of no value. 

A house has value, as does the land it sits upon. Education has value. Money has none. 

Money is a distraction. Money can become a deception--to prize that which has no value is a waste of energy and of life. The prize--any prize--necessarily is something that has value. As money has no value, it can never be a prize.  

To love money is to indulge in greed, to wallow in that crass and base and selfish desire, and to be misled by that crass and base and selfish desire, with an end result of our encountering many sorrows.

Greed Is The Love Of Money

In the 1987 movie "Wall Street", Michael Douglas' character, Gordon Gekko, attempted to make a virtue out of greed, talking it up dramatically in one of the movie's pivotal scenes:
Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms: greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind.
In the "Gospel of Gorden Gekko," this selfish desire, this notion of greed, is what builds society, creates civilizations, allows each of us to evolve and to grow and to prosper. But is this so? Does greed truly empower us?


Greed, in all of its forms, is a selfish and self-centered desire. Greed is unrestrained desire, unbalanced by any other consideration. Greed disregards any and all concepts of value. Greed is the pursuit of a distraction.  Greed becomes a deception.  Greed is a pernicious lie, for it leads us away from that which truly has value.

Value Is What Matters

What do I mean when I speak of value? I mean simply what the word itself means:
a fair return or equivalent in goods, services, or money for something exchanged
Value means that for all I give, something is returned. For all I do, something is paid. For all I receive, I give, measure for measure. Perhaps it is a material exchange--money paid or goods traded--or perhaps it is a non-material exchange; a kindness given met with gratitude, an affection repaid with affection, a love met with love. 

Value means that something--or someone--matters to me. Value means also that I matter to others.  

Value is what matters

Value mandates exchange. There can be no value without that essential act of giving and receiving. Value is of necessity an interaction. Value is engagement, between ourselves and the wider world surrounding us. Value cannot be realized until there is a doing--value exists as a potential without a doing, without an action, but if there should be no doing, no action, that potential is lost, and value is made meaningless. 

I have value in and of myself, but I must act in order to receive the measure and the benefit of that value. So, too, must those around me act if they are to yield up their value, and receive the full measure of that value. Value must flow in both directions--that of giving and that of receiving--or it cannot flow at all, and it cannot exist at all.

Value Requires Us To Reach Out

We are therefore counseled to look beyond the mere price of a thing, of the mere cost of a thing, and consider what value that thing has, either to me, or to my client, or to my employer, or to my friends and family. We are advised to orient our daily thinking around notions of value, and not to focus solely on dollars and cents. If a focus on money leads to pain and sorrow, a focus on value may lead to pleasure and prosperity.

We are not merely cautioned against crass greed, but are also called to action. We are challenged to engage in the world, to exchange--to give and to receive--that which we value, and to fully participate in all that goes on around us. We are reminded that, to improve our own lives, we must improve the lives of others. 

To rise, we must be the rising tide that lifts all ships.

04 July 2021

I Will Be Free

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.

Freedom is an intoxicating word. Freedom is a powerful word. For the individual man or woman, just the notion that what he or she chooses he or she may then do--can anything else even approach this as the epitome of personal power?

Freedom is a seductive word. Who does not desire that power of choice, that power to turn choice into action? Who does not have desires, things one wishes to have, or to experience, or to do?

Freedom Is Dangerous

Freedom is a dangerous word. For while we are free to choose, and therefore free to act, the consequences that arise from our actions we are not free to evade. As certain as it is that when we trip, we fall, that certain it is that when we act, we invite consequence--and not every consequence is good, or to our liking. The foods that delight our senses can ravage our bodies. Imbibe too much wine or whisky and the consequent hangover the next morning is generally unpleasant--and done too often will destroy our physical health. Tobacco brings pleasure to the senses and cancer to the flesh. We may proclaim our freedom to choose these things; we may not ever proclaim freedom from the consequence of our choices.

Yet we are free to choose. We are free to choose indulgence--and therefore we are free to choose restraint. We are free to choose--and therefore we are free to refrain from impulse, and choose with deliberation and with reason. We are free to choose--and therefore we are free to look ahead, look past the immediacy of choice and survey the landscape of consequences, and navigate towards those consequences we deem desirable.

We are free to choose, yet it is only in choosing that we are free. Only when we acknowledge our capacity to select one choice over another, only when we acknowledge that there are alternatives, that the impulse of the moment is not the only option we have, only then can we truly say we are free. Only when we proclaim our power to say "No" are we truly free to say "Yes." Only when we rise above the choice of the moment to a choice of outcome, a choice of consequence, only then are we free--for how can a demand to gratify the impulse of the moment ever count as freedom? If we are not in fact choosing, but merely following, surely that is not freedom.

Freedom Is A Challenge

So it is that freedom is a challenging word. Freedom is in fact a challenge. Freedom demands that we meet our momentary impulses with more than a reflexive gratification. Freedom requires of us that we meet our momentary impulses with a conscious and reflective intellect. Freedom requires that we look past the moment, past the impulse, past even the desire, and choose consequences--and from the selection of desired consequences and preferred outcomes, determine our actions. Freedom demands that we be deliberate, and that we be thoughtful. Freedom requires reason.

Freedom demands courage and it demands discipline. If we choose consequence before determining action, we are liberating ourselves truly, but to preserve that liberation, to maintain that freedom, we must follow through on the action, and we must follow through on all the actions thereafter in order to secure the desired outcome. It matters not how hard an action is, how difficult the course is--whatever the path is, whatever the course is, that is what must be done. We are "free" to choose not to traverse that path, but if we choose to stray from that path we choose to stray from our desired outcome. If we choose a path other than that indicated by the desired outcome, we are choosing to forsake that outcome--we are choosing to fail.

Freedom Is Not Easy

I am free to choose what I will, but only through deliberation and reason can my choices work to my benefit. Only by differentiating between "I want" and "I need" can I obtain and retain freedom. Only by having the courage to choose a path not because it is easy but because it is right, because it leads towards my goals and not away from them can I ever truly be free.

I am free to choose what I will, but only when I am willing to choose for myself. If I let others choose for me, that is not freedom. If I allow others to restrict my options, I allow them to restrict my freedom. If I am to be free, within myself I must be the master--and if I fail in that, I will most certainly become someone's slave.

I am free to choose what I will, because I am capable of choice. I have reason. I have intellect. I have the power to refuse--and that is what gives me the freedom to accept. I have the strength to walk the difficult path. I have the endurance to see that path to its ultimate ending. Because I have these things, within myself I can be the master, and therefore I never need be anyone's slave.

Freedom is not easy. Freedom is challenging. Freedom is demanding. Freedom is dangerous. 

But freedom is possible. And I will be free.