The following published written as closing remarks in the Winter 2012 issue of The Yale Logos, the theme of which was money.
H. L. Mencken once said, “When somebody says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.” In our materialist culture that values profit and utility maximization above all else (as an Economics major, I know this only too well), this saying has become almost a kind of truism. Knowing this sentiment, we at the Logos magazine make no pretense by calling this issue “The Money Issue.” Isn’t it all about money anyway?
Maybe it is.
The textbook definition of money is (1) a medium of exchange, (2) a unit of account, and (3) a storage of value. They are very important functions without which modern society cannot function. We see people use money to fund worthy causes. However, money can lead many people to destruction. We see people who are driven by greed to deceive and hurt those around them. How can something so innocuous (even good!) become so corrupted and dangerous?
The problem is not money, but the love of money, which is a symptom of the sin that entered the world with the Fall. All of us have exchanged the glory of God, our rightful relationship to serve Creator and rule over the creation, for idols of the created world (cf. Genesis 1:20-30, 3:6; Jeremiah 2:5-17; Romans 1:18-22). G. K. Chesterton expressed this sentiment when he said, “When a man ceases to worship God, he does not worship nothing—he worships anything.”
Maybe it is not really all about money, because it is only one of many idols.
In this magazine, you have read articles on money, capitalism, poverty, social justice, etc. Coming from different perspectives, our writers nonetheless agree that wealth can be dangerous for “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (I Timothy 6:10), but money is certainly a fact of life and meant for good ends. We neither worship money nor are we radicals for its abolition. Here are some conclusions we can draw:
First, a Christian should not be enamored with money and make it the end goal. For Christ warned us, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24).
Second, money can and should be used toward good ends. Jesus had a financial officer (though later disgraced) for His ministry. Believers contributed money to fund Christian ministry since the very beginning of Church history (cf. Acts 2:45, I Corinthians 16:2). The wealth of philanthropists helped to open many hospitals and schools. Alumni donors and the brilliant minds behind the Yale Investment Office made our education and the need-blind financial aid policy a reality. Even this small magazine cannot exist without generous donors.
Finally, we must redirect our worship to God, to love Him with all our heart, all our soul, and all of our might. Is this what we do? We should put money and other idols to their rightful place. We must serve God and rule over the creation. Whom do we serve? We ought to use our different talents and gifts for the good purposes God intended. Have we considered what God wants us to do with our life and everything He has given us?
They are some questions to ponder. And I pray that God would give us grace so we may honor Him with our substance, and, remembering the account which we must one day give, we would be faithful stewards of His bounty. Amen.
–Richard Lee, Economics and History, Morse ’14
This issue is not just for Economics majors. (I hope this is very clear after having flipped through this issue’s pages.)
To be honest, I chose my majors in part out of conscious rebellion against the tyranny of money. I am an English and Sociology double major—and nope, not Sociology of Economics, but Sociology of Film and Culture. You would think I have placed myself in academic concentrations that are safe from any looming thoughts of money.
But you—and I—are wrong. It appears that money remains an issue even in the most humanities of humanities, and not just a peripheral issue but a central issue. I am taking the pre-requisite classes for both of my majors this semester, and I haven’t thought about money this much since my Microeconomics class freshman year. In English, I have had a rather didactic encounter with the money issue: The Pardoner’s Tale in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales quotes the Bible verse that was central to our issue: “Radix malorum est Cupiditas,” or “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (I Timothy 6:10). The Pardoner’s Tale is ultimately a long meditation on this biblical truth. In Foundations of Modern Social Theory, a pre-requisite class for Sociology majors, I read Karl Marx (who throws everything in an economic light), and the venerable Adam Smith, who championed capitalism and introduced us to the monumental concept of the “invisible hand.”
I don’t think it is mere coincidence that the foundational syllabi to my two disciplines grapple with money. Money is just as much of an issue in the heads of novelists, poets, and sociologists as it is for economists. Money is everywhere.
This realization came a little late for my naïve self. I had proudly thought I was above the pursuit of money—as an English and Sociology major, I thought of myself as setting my sights on loftier aspirations. To be honest, I thought practical majors—Economics, Engineering, Pre-Med—entailed groveling in the meanness of everyday practicalities. I thought—if everyone would stop idolizing money, everyone would be English, Literature, and Art majors.
My summer broke that silly simplistic assumption. Working for Yale’s Development Office, I developed a newfound appreciation and veneration for those whose careers centered directly around money—like those in finance. Usually the largest donors were those with backgrounds in finance; these were the people who were funding my college education, allowing me to study English and the “lofty” humanities. Without their generous contributions, perhaps I wouldn’t be at Yale, or perhaps I wouldn’t be indulging in these luxurious facilities. (Yes, I said “luxurious.”) Perhaps this is an obvious truth to some, but for my out-of-touch self, it is a solemn realization: money makes the world go round. Practically speaking.
But I also recognize that money can make the world go—mad. And so Logos, in this fall issue, seeks to understand: how and when does money lead to evil? How can money be used for God’s glory? In crafting this issue, we sought to avoid de-contextualized Bible verses on money and rather sought to examine money through different perspectives: money as a potential idol, money in capitalism, money in giving (Travis Reginal’s poem). We accept Paul’s claim that the love of money is the root of all evil, but we know that that verse does not entail us to shun money itself as an evil. Money, at the end of the day, is also part of His Creation, and all things were created for His glory.
–April Koh, English and Sociology, Timothy Dwight ’14
Adam Smith, Bible, capitalism, Chaucer, Christian, economics, evil, GK Chesterton, God, good, HL Mencken, literature, love, Marx, materialism, money, poverty, social justice, utilitarian, Yale University