In Money We Trust

Mandisa ShieldsDecember 30, 2016Money and ValueInterfaith Connections

It’s broken up marriages, friendships, and even parent-child relationships. It’s caused people to lie, steal, and cheat.

It’s the reason why some don’t have adequate access to bathrooms or electricity while others are waited on day and night. It can be the difference for that big vacation, dream college, or important surgery. It’s caused millions of deaths around the word. No, it’s not a mental disorder or some psychotropic drug. It’s money.

Everyone thinks about money. This includes the struggling immigrant wracked with debt and poverty, the frustrated middle-class father worried about his daughter’s student loans, and the wealthy billionaire who owns a Fortune 100 company. People think about how they can make more money, what they can do to sustain whatever money they already have, and what will happen if they don’t make more money. In the past, money was simply an obsession. Today it’s our culture and religion. Today money is faith.

For those of us whose faith is simply the belief that their bus will arrive on time, it may be easier to adopt a lifestyle that completely revolves around money. However, for me, faith is so much more: it’s the belief that people are inherently good and deserve to be treated as such. It’s the belief that life truly does go on when tragedy seems to make time stand still. For me, faith is the belief that all one can do is spread love, wisdom, and joy that will in turn be spread by others. Because of this, I have to put people before money and material possessions; I have to challenge myself to put the feelings and well being of others first, even when I might achieve a personal gain doing otherwise.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been an extremely religious person. I can’t quote many passages from the Bible and I couldn’t tell you the name of every member of my church; in fact, there have been times when I’ve moved in which I didn’t even belong to a church. However, I do consider myself to be a deeply spiritual and faithful person. For me, faith isn’t just a lulling sense of calm that allows us to sleep at night in the wake of our troubles. It’s what assures me that being kind and selfless is essentially the big picture of humanity.

For me as a Baptist Christian, faith is God; it’s a higher power that has an ultimate purpose for us all. That purpose is usually to contribute to the big picture; to leave the world a bit more thoughtful, considerate, or knowledgeable than you found it. Faith is that thing that tells me to hold the door open or give the subway musician a dollar or two. It’s what tells me that these small acts of kindness aren’t small at all; for that person, it can be what makes their day and that alone can drive me. The thought that everything we do matters and can impact us in ways that we are unaware, inspires me to be the best person I can be. It gives me hope that I can have some sort of impact on the world–even if that’s only in one person’s life. My faith is also a grounding force as well; it reminds me to be selfless and giving because I am only a part of a big picture. It’s not all about me.

The problem isn’t money; it’s the amount of value our society places on it. It’s the fact that money is seen as the only thing that can change or reform someone’s life as opposed to giving time and energy to those who are less fortunate, or simply helping someone change their outlook on their life. The problem is the fact that politicians’ votes can be swayed or even bought with enough money or that a child’s education can be deeply impacted by their socioeconomic conditions. The biggest problem overall is that this has been accepted as a social norm.

I’m not saying that all monetary units should be abolished and that everyone should go live as hermits in the woods. Being wise with one’s money is important if you want to live a comfortable life. However, there should be a limit. One shouldn’t put the health, safety, or livelihood of another person behind their quest to earn more money; my faith has taught me that.

Placing my faith before money has given me a different set of guidelines with which to navigate through life. Instead of viewing money as the ultimate goal in life, I see it as an asset of security, stability and comfort. However, I don’t see money as the only provider of these things; I find family, happiness and fulfillment to be just as important, if not more. My faith and values have made me realize one thing: I don’t want to be old and alone with no friends, no family, and no fulfillment with regards to what I’ve done in life, because no amount of money could fill that gaping hole.

Mandisa Shields is a 17-year-old high school senior. When she isn’t reading, writing, and drowning in college applications, she’s aspiring to become a journalist.