MCDOWELL'S MUSINGS, METAPHORS, AND MESSAGES

A Funny Thing Happened to Me on the Way to the Bank

All of us are economical. After all, we have to be. We have jet age appetite with horse and buggy pocketbooks. If the average man made two thousand dollars a week, and if he bought everything he wanted, he would be broke before the weekend. Some wag might say if his wife be managing the money he would be broke before Tuesday.

Since we want more than we can afford we practice economy. On some things we splurge, on others deny ourselves. The pattern that develops from this necessity can be highly individualized. For example, a man who was reported to be the richest man in the world several years ago was reported to have had pay telephones installed in his English mansion. Many a man has humiliated his wife by making a scene in a public place over a few cents. A few months after my wife and I were married we collected what little change we had, cashed in all our soda pop bottles for the deposits, put seventy-five cents worth of gas in our old jalopy, and went and had dinner at the nicest eating place in town. One man's indulgence is another man's thrift. Of course my example is hopelessly and romantically dated, but you get the point.

People are uniform in their desires, but they differ radically in the way they practice economy. Which is one way of saying we want the same things but some of us give priority to one value, some to another.

To illustrate, all of us believe in education, insurance, religion, benevolence, the democratic process, etc. And we all want nice homes, fine furnishings, new cars, beautiful clothes, ad infinitum. If we had an unlimited supply of money we would make liberal donations to every worthwhile institution and, at the same time, we would satisfy our personal longings for material goods. We would leave no good undone that money could fix or fortify. In this impulse we are all alike.

However, since we do not have an unlimited supply of money we are forced to be frugal. We must choose certain values and reject others. We do not want to reject any value, but we must. There just is not enough money to go around.

It is in making this selection that we differ. Spending money is a continual crisis in which character is revealed. Our values are bared. We stand spiritually and morally naked before God and society. For we spend money not just on things we believe in but those things we believe in the most.

So the real question is not "what do you intellectually subscribe to?" We all believe fundamentally in the same things. The question is: "to what do you give priority?" You have to economize somewhere. Do you deny yourself material things that you might be rich toward God? Or do you indulge yourself in material whims and finance them by economizing with God?

One person makes sure they give liberally to God and their church and, if they have any left over, they buy material possessions. Another makes sure they have the finest material possessions their salary will buy, and if they have any left over they give a bit to God. What is the difference in these people? Is one a religious person and the other an atheist? Dos the first despise material goods while the other is a thoroughgoing hedonist? Not at all. They are both religious and both church-goers. They both appreciate fine things. One gives priority to God, the other to mammon.

Jesus said give priority to the kingdom of heaven. The other things will be added to you.