A little over a month ago, a small company named GameStop was — according to the stock market — worth $1.2 billion dollars. Less than two weeks later it was worth $30 billion. As I write this, it is valued at $3.5 billion. In the period from January 25 until February 2 (seven trading days) it fluctuated for a combined total of $65 billion. It represents one of the most remarkable temper tantrums in the history of finance.
The media struggled to categorize it. It was finally billed as the revolt of retail investors against Wall Street hedge funds. In reality, it was due to a number of things: new leadership at the struggling video game retailer had brought new optimism; a popular Reddit messaging thread which encouraged members to buy the stock; and Wall Street managers who piled on due to a technical event called a short squeeze.
If you are searching for a proper summary to the GameStop saga, it is this: money can make you wonky. If it is at the center of your life, expect volatility. Your highs will be feckless and your lows devastating. For every profiteer of the GameStop moon-shot, someone has lost their shirt in the return to reality.
Money is an important medium by which we vote our faith. Turned inward, consumerism it is a cancer that spreads and eventually destroys. Turned outward, giving is the seed on good soil that can yield “thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” If you are wondering what you can do to serve the kingdom of God, start by giving to it.
Christians are called to give in response to what was given to us. When the focus of our spending begins with giving, it reorders our relationship with money. Paul famously wrote that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil,” but it is obvious that money isn’t the problem; it is what money does to the heart. We earn income so we think it is ours, we worked for it, we deserve it. It is Gollum’s “precious.” The inner person ruined by self-sufficiency.
The failure to attribute all things to God — including our hard-earned income — is a quick way to minimize the gospel. Money ultimately enticed Judas to betray Jesus. The list of things that we can simultaneously love is long: our children, our spouse, our job, even our dog — but we cannot love both God and money. It is one or the other, mutually exclusive.
Many people have suffered financially over the past year. Whole industries have shuttered as a result of the pandemic and social distancing. Many other industries have laid-off or reduced hours. Low-income workers — the people who do not have much money to begin with — have faced some of the greatest hardship. That’s one reason why it’s important to avoid focusing solely on giving when talking about money.
Warren Buffet was once asked how to obtain financial independence. He responded: “There is no sustainable investment on the planet that returns 18% a year. Start by paying off your credit cards.” Buffet was not speaking as a Christian, but, to some measure, it is easy to liken his words to Matthew 5:23-26: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember your brother has something against you, leave your gift before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”
Serve. Pray. Confess sins. Keep a right attitude before God. By freeing up your finances, you’ll be more able to support the work of God’s kingdom. The surest antidote to the love of money is to give with a cheerful heart and know that what you’re offering is to God. Eventually your attitude towards money will be one of joy. And, if you keep your giving a secret, it will also transform your heart. Money is not the only evil in the world, but it is one of the simplest to solve.
Moreover, I and my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let us abandon this exacting of interest. Return to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses … (Neh 5:10-11).