I have started a new online class with a small group of diverse individuals from around the country. It is an interesting exercise to jump online with a group of strangers and just start sharing – especially in a faith-focused setting!
What if these other classmates are more scripturally versed than I am? What if my comments are immature? Will I sound dumb? Do I have any right to express my opinion on such complex topics?!?
It is only an 8-week course, and the online discussion goes deep fast. Posts are shared, responses made, emotions and fears are expressed. You quickly begin to understand background and either appreciate or learn to tolerate the unique perspective of each individual in the course. These are a group of people seeking to better understand God’s presence in their lives for various purposes. When we are open and honest the experience is more genuine and rewarding. There is much I can learn from these people and the life experience they are willing to share!
The first question posed to this small group was perplexing – and potentially deeply personal. Why is there a taboo surrounding money – personally, but particularly in the church?
How would you respond to this? We all know it is against the cultural norm to tell other people our salary. But why? I think there are many answers, with complex layers, deeply influenced by how we were raised.
I shared the following with my online class…. My husband and boss are the only people who know my salary. I would be reluctant to give a number even if someone broke the cultural norm and asked me what I make. But I will say that as an accountant, I am paid well. My husband is a public school teacher. We both work hard, put in extra hours and are dedicated to our respective employer. We both have graduate degrees. Yet I am paid significantly more than what my husband makes. This is not something we dwell on – we both simply work together to support our family. Yet it could easily create feelings of both shame and pride. How can money create such conflicting emotions?
Our culture has made salary a status symbol – a sign of how good we are, and definitely a thing we seek to possess. There are many resources placed in our human care (our bodies, time, material wealth, emotional energy). Problems exist when we focus more energy on acquiring these possessions than considering our call to maintain and use the possessions gifted to us for God’s purpose. These problems will exist regardless of how much we actually make.
Ah, money – a potentially divisive, highly-sensitive and conflict-generating topic. Easy to sit in front of my computer and make comments, but very difficult to appreciate how others might interpret the words I write! Who might I offend?
I stated earlier that an open and honest forum will make an experience more rewarding. But I think the reward is dependent upon our intent. Do we share information about salary because we want recognition for what we have or what we’ve done? Do we not share our salary because we are ashamed of how little or maybe even how much we make?
The intent of anything I choose to share – whether it be in discussion, in online course forums, or even through these blog posts – is to better understand the role of faith in my life and the lives of people important to me. We are on this life-long journey to deepen trust in God – but we take this journey with others! So we share with others when mutually beneficial to do so. We share our story when it allows us to find or show God at work in the world!