Fr. Peter Daly
May 16, 2001
Money, money, money. Everybody fights about money.
It’s the main thing that married couples fight about. Sometimes about how to get it, but mostly about how to spend it. Even households with good incomes have bad financial problems.
All this fighting makes money a spiritual problem. That is why our parish sponsored a two-day workshop on financial planning from a Catholic perspective.
We had a home grown expert to help us. One of our parishioners, Bill Gorman, runs a financial advising service called Faithful Servant. Bill actually manages money for clients to help them invest according to the teachings of the Church.
Drawing on scripture, the Catechism, the writings of the bishops and the saints (especially St. Francis de Sales) as well as the usual financial tools, he guides people in their use of money as part of their spiritual life.
Bill’s basic thesis is that most of our money problems come from the seven deadly sins: pride, avarice (greed), lust, envy, anger, gluttony and sloth. As long as we suffer from these sins, more money won’t help.
When you think about it he is right. Pride makes us buy things that we don’t need just for an ego boost. Greed make us want more, whether we need it or not. Lust, related to greed in our desire, makes us spend on our sinful appetites rather than on our true needs. Anger moves people, to use money as a weapon against one another. Gluttony, like greed and lust, relates to a common American phenomenon, hoarding. We buy even when we already have. (Look in most people’s garages. Sometimes they can’t even get the car in.) Sloth or laziness has obvious financial consequences, but to most people’s surprise not so much in the making of money as in the lack of discipline in spending.
Over two nights Bill showed us how giving in to the seven deadly sins and the temptations of the evil one can lead to financial ruin.
The antidote to the financial malaise of the seven deadly sins is the vaccine of the four cardinal virtues: prudence justice, temperance, fortitude.
The basic problem is confusion about goals. Most people, says Gorman, do not really identify what they need for their vocation. Some need more, some less. A real estate agent might need a fancy car, but not a parish priest. According to Bill, if we are clear about our primary vocation, the question of what we need comes immediately into focus.
As a lay man, Bill could say things I know to be true, but could not say because it would look self-serving. For instance: when we put God first in our use of time and treasure, including tithing for the church, everything else falls into its proper place. He pointed out that just the average combined credit card interest in most parishes is more than our whole parish budget. If people paid no credit card interest, they could give for free to the church.
Two-thirds of the parables of Jesus have something to do with money, from the story of the clever servant to the widow’s mite. Jesus knew that the material things are important. The Lord’s prayer recognizes this, when He tells us to pray for our “daily bread.”
But the scripture is in conflict with a “consumer” culture. Our culture tells us that we should perpetually want more. We become the servants of our wants, not their master.
Jesus told His disciples, “No servant can serve two masters. He will hate one and love the other. … You cannot serve both God and money.”
Reflecting on the spiritual use of our money is an essential part of the spiritual life of the parish. It certainly was worth two nights of our time. Next year we will make it a requirement for all couples preparing for marriage.
I’m sure the Lord wants us all to be “faithful servants.”