Unification News for April 2001
In this article we’ll tackle a subject that everyone has an opinion about: money. More precisely, money and its relationship to the spiritual life.
Religious people, from ancient Hindu mystics through modern Christians, have always been leery of material possessions, and especially their concentrated form, money. (Read I Tim. 6:10). Some have gone so far as to renounce it completely, embracing an austere monastic life.
Unificationists, with a vast, worldwide vision, tend to regard money as a tool. Fuel to power an ever-expanding Providence of God. And there is never enough!
Finances are an issue for everyone. People have strange attitudes about money, always wanting more for themselves, yet resenting the wealthy. Dreaming about how they’d spend every dollar they might obtain, yet unsurprised when some lottery winner or rich celebrity self-destructs.
Few are actually happy with their finances. Third World people need money for sheer survival. Billionaires are constantly battling rivals, shysters, and the tax man.
Money is one of the primary causes of divorce. One partner might be irresponsible, or some third person appears to offer financial security. Even within stable couples, financial styles may differ. Unificationist couples often overlay cultural differences on these individual ones.
Gender plays a big role in finances, as money represents different things to men and women.
In general, men find esteem, and express their love, through their careers, by providing a home for their family. If they’re not doing well, men experience immense stress. Push themselves so hard they become strangers to their own children. (This happens more in Japan than in America.)
For women, money is more personal. It’s often used to show love, by buying gifts; and to express faith, through making specific donations.
Too often, wives leave their finances entirely to the man of the family. Millions of widows are thus left vulnerable to mismanagement, or even to con artists.
Many Unificationist couples place great emphasis on their children. It may be sports, or the arts, or practical skills. Some insist on a maximum of formal education and tutoring.
Other couples place top priority on tithes, church projects, and campaigns. Time and money are heavily shifted toward these. Vague assurances of "God will bless" are spoken, and while miracles sometimes occur, more often, debts accumulate.
There are ways to smooth out these differences, and create a happy and secure household. It takes faith, understanding, and effort.
How best to handle our finances?
The Bible, with its system of tithing, says that God has dominion over the material world, including financial matters. Believers have interpreted this in various ways.
Millions of believers, chronically lacking money, decide they’ll just be happy to have ‘treasures in Heaven.’ Some clergymen have gone to the opposite extreme, promising fabulous Heaven-sent riches to anyone who donates to their ministry.
In the early days, Unificationists lived in missionary centers, and money was held in common. Now, most are married, and have places (and bank accounts) of their own.
We know that God will bless us through tithing, yet a newly Blessed couple has to do an awful lot by dividing up a rather small pie.
In every church, it is the Pastor’s job to inspire tithing. Funds are needed for numerous worthy purposes. He encourages parishioners to begin tithing, or to increase the amount. Not demanding too much, and risking alienation. A challenging task.
For our members, all this creates pressure to make more money. Add that to our worldly inexperience, and we can get into difficulties.
Members who chose to ‘go the secular route’ usually have white collar skills, and lucrative careers. Unfortunately, those past secular choices sometimes translate into a current unwillingness to part with their money . . .
This holds true in a wider sense. It’s usually easier to go door-to-door fundraising in humble neighborhoods than in wealthy ones.
Meanwhile, members who stuck with the ‘formula course’ are now eager to offer funds they simply do not have! This has led to a few breakthroughs—and an awful lot of mistakes.
Some took the easy option: borrowing money. Perhaps from relatives (causing uncomfortable situations), but more often, from banks and credit cards. The result is familiar enough that I need not describe the painful details.
In my opinion, if someone tithed with borrowed money, it wasn’t really their money at all. Especially if they knew they had no reasonable chance of paying it back. Sure, they didn’t get it from the bank at gun point, but just because the penalties are milder, that doesn’t make it right.
Unificationists are now familiar with a great many "get rich quick" offers. Various new products, multi-level-marketing setups, and other business plans have, in essence, gained their own converts—who then attempt to recruit everyone they know.
Our members have lost a lot of money, and not one of those plans has enjoyed widespread success. Why? Members always tried to sign each other up, and also, those business offers were unsound in the first place. In one case, a sudden bankruptcy (by an ‘outside’ Chinese supplement company) left hundreds of members in the lurch.
Your author used to live in Las Vegas, and heard pitches for just about every money making scheme imaginable. I tried a couple of businesses, and made a decent profit. Then I got sick of approaching everyone with a ‘hustler’s eye,’ and decided I’d rather sell things I’ve created personally (like stories).
Some members have remained in sales, but now it’s with regular street-corner stands, or for legitimate corporations. A few have developed their scientific, political, or artistic skills. Others have ‘blue collar’ jobs, many of which pay quite well. One brother sold his registered Internet domain name for $20,000! (Anybody want mine?)
As once suggested here in the UNews, instead of pushing that latest (alleged) hot deal on everybody, how about marketing the True Parents instead?
Many members have gone to work for ‘outside’ companies. This presents some challenges. A Unificationist boss will understand the large tithes to be made, and the latest mobilization, whether domestic or overseas. He may be rushing off on the next flight, himself!
It’s a little harder to explain such things to a secular boss. Each campaign is very, very important, but members will still need their job the day after it ends.
There are stories of the noble sacrifices made by our early members in Korea. The modern Providence was given a crucial boost, and Korea itself saved from Communist domination.
However, in the process, those member’s own children weren’t adequately cared for. An alarmingly large number of those Korean youngsters, now grown, have rejected Unificationism. (One wonders if there might have been more options.)
In the future, scientific advances like nanotechnology will provide such great material abundance that money itself will be obsolete. The Principle can stave off the decadence that such wealth would otherwise entail, and then we’ll have a real Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.
Meanwhile, responsible Christians such as Stephen Covey and Larry Burkett have written excellent financial guide books, combining spiritual understanding with common sense and monetary skills. Study them!
Jesus’ famous Parable of the Talents makes it clear that believers need not shun money, but rather, should handle it responsibly. Then, over time, it will surely grow. In Principled terms, we must be subject over money.
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