By MATT POTTER
RADICAL JOY — CATHOLIC STEWARDSHIP AND ABUNDANCE
“What do I Own, and What Owns me?”
That is the title of an interesting book written by Dan Conway, an individual who is well-known and highly respected in the areas of stewardship and fundraising.
The book tells us that “when all is said and done we own nothing because we are possessed wholly and completely by ‘a good and gracious God.’ Stewardship is one of the chief characteristics of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.”
I believe this speaks to something prevalent in our society, perhaps in our very nature. We compartmentalize what we own and what we do with our things, telling ourselves “This is God’s, and this is mine. This God gave to me, and this I did on my own.”
Stewardship calls us to recognize that God gives us everything and wants it all back, with return. We are OK with that to a point; but when it interferes with our comfort, we tend to rationalize and justify the separation of what is ours and what is God’s.
Sometimes on my drive to the Catholic Center, I will listen to a well-known financial advice-giver, doling out answers to caller questions about debt, budgets, investments and money in general. But I am cautious and skeptical regarding his advice and his motives because I have heard him say things about mutual-fund investing to callers that are misleading and inaccurate. This causes me to wonder what else he is saying that may be misleading or inaccurate.
What he tells callers is taken as the gospel of the radio host. I don’t have the space here to go into detail about what is fundamentally wrong with the things he says; but if you want the long explanation, you can go to my blog – Radicaljoy.blog – and look for the post titled “Uninformed Advice is Bad Advice.”
Typical callers have struggles with money. Newlyweds, recent college graduates and people who have just lived the high life on borrowed money, for which payment has now come due.
The host’s responses generally demand the caller to get out of debt, save money and pay cash for things. In the big picture, these are smart-money items rooted in sound financial planning. The looked-for end result is that the advice-taker will be happier and more fulfilled, and will ultimately be able to share the wealth he/she has accumulated.
Often, there are testimonials from those who have followed the advice of the host. They credit him with getting out from under the crushing debt they took on and for turning around their lives. After such stories are shared, the host then gives them an “attaboy” and all go on their happy way.
This is where his advice crosses paths with the question posed in the title of Dan Conway’s book. Even though the callers believe they are in control of their financial lives, the reality is that money and circumstance now control their actions. Rather than being enslaved to credit-card companies, they are now enslaved to their bank-account balances. Their money continues to own them, only now it is on the other side of the ledger. Their newly found “success” is then credited to a radio-talk-show host and their own hard work.
People will disagree with me about the host, and that’s OK. But every time I listen to the show, I hear people who are so focused on their financial success that they forget from where that success really came.
It’s an important question; what do I own, and what owns me? The answer may not be the one we want; but for us to truly be disciples of Jesus Christ, it is necessary to know.
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For more information on Dan Conway’s book, visit https://bit.ly/2YRJVTc.