Christmas season is supposed to be a time of happiness and cheer, correct? Yes, yes it is. Sometimes I have to keep reminding myself of that. I suspect I’ll truly enter into the holiday spirit sometime late Friday night when I get to my parent’s house and start eating some of Mom’s Christmas cookies. Mmmmm . . .
Let’s talk about money. It is fashionable, predictably fashionable, to disparage money, especially during this time of the year. Indeed, what person is so shallow as to love money? In truth, we all do, at least all of us that live in the real world. Furthermore, during this time of the year, most of us are especially guarded against the Specter of Materialism because it is in direct contradiction to the True Meaning of the Season and the Spirit of the Holiday. The same thing is blasted at us from every pious and not-so-pious corner: Materialism and Things are The Bad, Love and Family are The Good. Last time I checked, my truck doesn’t run on Love, and Family doesn’t keep me warm at night (unless you’re lucky) and the rain off my beloved machines. Clearly, Love and Family are precious, perhaps crucial, perhaps necessary, to life and stuff, but to a great degree so is money. So what does money do? Money pays our bills. Money heats our homes. Money quantifies our work. Money helps us express our love to others. Money is an avenue of charity. Money, for better or for worse, is the propellent of the developed world.
Of course, this is not to say that the love of money has not been abused to cause great evil. I’m reminded of Father Barry’s inspiring monologue in On the Waterfront (it’s worth seeing the movie solely for his sermon in the ship’s hold). Before he comes to his conclusion he reminds us:
You want to know what’s wrong with our waterfront? It’s love of a lousy buck. It’s making love of a buck— the cushy job— more important than the love of man. It’s forgetting that every fellow down here is your brother in Christ.
This is what seems to stick in our minds when we think of money: the evil, the materialism, the fallen quality of money. If our love of money usurps our love of man, then surely we have gone too far. But money is a neutral object, and so it can be a tool for everybody to use for great good, as Father Barry comments earlier in his monologue:
He [Christ] sees why some of you get picked and some of you get passed over. He sees the family men worrying about getting their rent and getting food in the house for the wife and kids. He sees them selling their souls to the mob for a day’s pay.
As long as money can be used to buy families food, it will never be an altogether Bad Thing.
I’m afraid I’ve gotten a little preachy — and I don’t intend to preach as I assume I’d be preaching to the choir regardless — but sometimes it does seem people get a little carried away with the Spirit of the Season and lose touch with reality. Warm fuzzies are nice but not that nice.