Frank Butler was on the board of the Ministry of Money (now called the Faith and Money Network) for many years. On a trip to India he met with Mother Teresa and then shared the following story from that encounter.
“My wife Ruth and I were in Calcutta with a Ministry of Money ‘pilgrimage of reverse mission.’ That journey was called a reverse mission as the hope was that the participants’ lives would be changed and we would live differently when we returned home.
It was our privilege to spend some time with Mother Teresa on that trip. I happened to be sitting next to her when she asked why we were there. ‘I am considering early retirement from my business career,’ I told her ‘so that we could serve in a third world country.’ She put her hand on my knee and replied, ‘Don’t do that Frank. Go back to America where God has put you. I have seen the starving, but in your country I have seen an even greater hunger, and that is the hunger to be loved. In all my travels around the world, I have never seen such loneliness as there is in the POVERTY OF AFFLUENCE in America.’
Paul Taylor had heard Frank tell that story and he had no trouble understanding what Mother Teresa meant about the Poverty of Affluence because of the stories he had heard wealthy people tell about the effects of their wealth on their lives. For him the symbolic moment around the connection of spirituality and wealth was reaching the millionaire line. “I filled out a bank financial statement,” he said, “and after adding everything up . . . bam, there it was.” Suddenly he had passed a threshold which defined him as a wealthy man. “It was a little scary,” he said, “and a little affirming, but a serious moment of realization.”
He went on to say that he was aware of the biblical warnings and potential entanglements that come with added wealth and that made him apprehensive about his new financial status. Paul also knew a conscious choice to keep spiritual values over wealth was the way he wanted to live his life.
The Bible does not say that money is the root of all evil, but it does say that the love of money is that problematic root. No matter what income bracket we fall into, big problems can grow from that root when we do not understand our own relationship to money. Whether you are a multi-millionaire or struggling to keep afloat financially, you may be struggling with the loneliness Mother Teresa referred to when she talked to Frank about the Poverty of Affluence in America.
There used to be a lot of taboos in this country about what was an acceptable subject for discussion. These days it seems like the only thing we don’t talk about openly is money and our relationship to it. That is one reason why we at the Faith and Money Network focus on the importance of making the connection between faith and money.
The Study Guide on this website is a great way to get started; the CDs will focus on the ways we use our financial resources, and our Trips of Perspective expand our understanding of how rich we are by the world’s standards.
Please join us on this journey of discovery.