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Jul. 25th, 2005

I finished listening to the audiobook of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone last night. I feel like I'm the last person on earth to read it. Rowling is a master storyteller. The reader on the tape, Jim Dale, is brilliant too. I'll start the tape of Chamber of Secrets on the way into work.

My favorite laundromat is closing to remodel for a month. It's a very nice one so I'm not sure why. Maybe the new owners will put the TVs away from the washing machines so I don't have to listen to Oprah insult moms who don't have the time and money to outfit themselves to the standards of "What Not to Wear."

But I really want to write about is my sensitivity to when people at church talk about finances, specifically their latest purchases. Yesterday friends of mine at church we're talking about their new car which was "just under $20,000." Now I know that $20K isn't a lot of money to spend on a new car. But I feel inferior cos I can't imagine spending that much on a car in my lifetime. Inflation may prove me wrong I guess. Then there's my friends from the church I used to go who are buying a very nice house that my librarian salary will never be able to afford either. On the other hand, I'm fully aware that I have more resources than 85% of the world. So why do I feel inferior in the above situations? Jealousy is the problem I guess. I should be happy when my friends can afford nice things. On the other hand I feel quite ashamed of my air-conditioner less house and dirty, scratched up car. But I wonder how many people have left the church in similiar situations? Should we caution against such discussions for the sake of the kingdom?


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 25th, 2005 08:58 am (UTC)
I understand -- my college friends are out there buying new cars and houses, and I was lucky to find a better used car I could afford.

Of course, I don't ever plan to buy a new car, because it's a ridiculous waste of money (since they depreciate so fast)... but I was again reminded the other day that "we must live simply so that they may simply live" -- even in my supposed low-income living i am still richly blessed with possessions i don't really need :)
Jul. 25th, 2005 09:11 am (UTC)
I can't imagine myself ever spending $20K on a car. I've never spent more than $13K on one.

I bought one new...once, and I feel absolutely guilty about it. What a waste of personal funds.

That being said, my wife's already assured me that my next car could indeed be a BMW 5-series. Sheesh.... Her salary, not mine.
Jul. 25th, 2005 09:15 am (UTC)
Money and Church
I have been dealing with this dilemma. Mine is which parish to belong to because I am of humble means as a teacher, small salary, looking toward retirement in a few years and smaller income still. But I have some gifts that would benefit, especially in the area of youth formation. Seems though that the only ones who are allowed to give their gifts are those that are also heavy financial contributors. I'm thinking that church for the most part is only for the wealthy. What do you think?
Jul. 25th, 2005 01:41 pm (UTC)
Re: Money and Church
Ouch. Have you talked to your priest about this?
Jul. 25th, 2005 02:29 pm (UTC)
Re: Money and Church
Two priests in two parishes, both aware of it, admit it but don't know what to do about it.
Jul. 25th, 2005 11:33 am (UTC)
I think one could draw a distinction here. If you chose to do so, you could make big dollars at a lot of things--you're educable, bright, and capable. You've made choices--good choices--and you are fully entitled to exult in them. It's folks who don't have the smarts or the "get there from here" who might really be hit by talk of money--although, oddly, the demographics of more expensive cars include a fair number of people who can't afford good housing. In my part of the south, people lived in shotgun shacks with Cadillacs, because car financing (particularly for a recent model used car) was easier to obtain than real estate financing.

But you raise a valid concern. Still, I have to think that the trouble with these communications issues is that all the sensitivities sometimes overwhelm any chance for connection. I mean, for me, a car over 20K is affordable, but I choose to drive a car that cost 14k. Yet, to the person who lacks even 6K, the mention that I own such a car could be taken as a form of reproach, even if I mention it's a new Hyundai Sonata rather than its purchase price. But in reality, eventually one could not say anything, because we are all consuming (and all-consuming) creatures.

But in your case, you live the good life in the right way, which for you involves certain choices with certain economic consequences. You should revel in what you have! You have a lot.

Jul. 25th, 2005 01:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Jul. 25th, 2005 11:55 am (UTC)
i hear you - i know this frustration.
although i am not sure that this sort of thing should be damaging to the sake of or cause of the kingdom. my question to think about is why it makes you feel inferior, because you are obviously not. would you really want to spend all that money on a car? and is there any reason why you are inferior if you don't, whether by choice or not?
sure, it may be sort of insensitive on your friend's behalf. i know people who buy planes and fancy cars and multiple houses - but they know it doesn't make them superior, and they don't publicize it. and that is how it ought to be, imho. i choose to spend as little as possible on cars and housing, because i have other priorities for what money i do have right now. and i am just fine with that. i am on church staff, so i would imagine we are in similar economic situations - and i would imagine that you have made some similar choices.
and as we both now, having so much materially does not make your life better or you happier. this is a grace i learned from traveling overseas. i would way rather be poor, and authentic - and happy.

so be encouraged. and be intentional. you don't brag about your choices in that way, i imagine, and so don't let it affect you so much when they do. and maybe they will stop. i am so sorry it made you feel bad - that shouldn't happen at church.
Jul. 25th, 2005 01:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
Jul. 26th, 2005 01:49 pm (UTC)
Jim Dale is brilliant.

Your comments about the car reminds me of a conversation I want to have with a co-worker. She is very wealthy, and thinks that the sensitive thing to do when she wants us all to go out to lunch is to suggest somewhere expensive and offer to pay for me. I don't usually want to go somewhere I can't afford, and then depend on her charity. I want her to join me at the places I like, and can afford.

My point in bringing up my own stuff is, I think it's about much more than jealousy. I want her to be willing to honor my lifestyle, my choices, my tastes, my resources... no matter where we both are on the continuum of relative wealth and poverty in the world. But that's a hard conversation to have. She thinks she's doing me a favor, because of course the more expensive option must be better, right? The first thing we can do to align our money stuff with the Kingdom is to stop equating price with value.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


leonard cohen

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