HINSHAW: Money can cause us to do things out of character

Faith column



My earliest experience with money involved my younger brother and the plastic piggy banks that our parents had given each of us. These large plastic pigs doffed their hat when we dropped a coin into them.

I remember my brother and me sitting on our bed with our plastic pigs. Being 28 months older than he, I could talk him into things he wouldn’t have done on his own. I coaxed him to remove the coins from his bank and drop them into mine. It worked like a charm.

I had learned early in life something about the power of money and the means of manipulating others - even my own flesh and blood - regarding money. Whether I got punished for this thievery I do not remember nor did it occur to me that our parents were the only source of every coin we had.

On that bedspread was played out much of what is wrong with our world when it comes to money. There is a power to money that makes us do things to others that we would not want others to do to us. Payday loans at exorbitant interest rates and debt restructuring by rich and powerful countries with disastrous consequences for impoverished nations represent the insidious means that people, corporations and governments use to exploit those who are less powerful, more naive, more desperate, maybe even more trusting.

The power of money – coinage, gold, silver, etc., is almost universally seductive, at least in modern society. A newspaper ad cajoles unsuspecting suckers into believing they are getting a real bargain by purchasing for $99 a bag “loaded” with over 100 coins. Reading carefully one discovers that most of the coins are currently circulating nickels, dimes and quarters with one lonely silver half dollar tossed in to sweeten the pot.

Many of the world’s religions are wary about money. The New Testament warns followers that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Although most of us quickly conclude that we don’t “love” money, that we simply use it as a means to an end, I suspect we let ourselves off the hook far too easily. Most of us are hopelessly addicted to money, possessions and the promise of money because money is power and money (falsely) promises independence, freedom and status. If we don’t have it, we worship, respect and sometimes decry those who do.

This is not a diatribe against the banking system, Wall Street or the monetary system. We are stuck with money, even if the form is mostly electronic and paperless these days. (Maybe that’s the appeal of the vault bags full of coins: it’s “real” money!)

What does money do to you? How does money exercise its power over you? To what lengths would you go to get and keep it? And where does generosity and giving fit in your understanding of who has money and who doesn’t?

Creede Hinshaw is a retired minister living in Macon.