In the climactic scene from the movie A Few Good Men, Navy lawyer, LTJG Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise), questioning Marine Corps COL Nathan R. Jessep (Jack Nicholson), shouts, “I want the truth!” to which Colonel Jessep explodes, “You can’t handle the truth!” The truth we cannot handle is that, despite what we say, we believe and therefore act, like money is the most indispensable thing in life.
Truth is, everything we need … food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and medical care … is obtained with money. Things we want, like healthier food, finer homes and furnishings, luxury automobiles, more fashionable clothes, trips, and other luxuries, are obtained with money.
Many important relationships simply do not even begin or cannot be sustained without money. We live in a cash economy. Money is the medium of exchange and the measure of value in that economy. A cash-based economy allows more people to engage in commerce with others than bartering allows. We give our time, energy, and abilities … in sum our life … to some enterprise for which in return we receive cash. We then take that cash to provide for the basic needs we have and, if there is enough, to meet the desires that are unique to each of us.
Given the necessity of money for every person then, is it any wonder that its place in our lives, in our thinking, and in our behavior is so skewed? Is it any wonder that it is easier to act as if we have put our trust in money, rather than in God, to provide for us?
Those who follow Jesus Christ hold a very different understanding of, and relationship to, money. First, they believe that their money is not their own. It is all God’s. It is given to them by God to provide for the needs that God knows every person has. It is entrusted to their individual management so that they may make their way in the world, provide for the common good, and provide for God’s purposes in the world.
Next, followers of Jesus Christ are grateful for all they have received, be it income, liberty, health, family, the list could be quite long. They understand that, while some of these blessings are attributed to their own industry, discipline, or good habits, nonetheless, more of it is attributable to factors not of their choosing, such as their genes, parental support, education, and so on. As the great hymn Old 100th proclaims, “Know that the Lord is God indeed, without our aid he did us make.” But, most of all, they are thankful for incalculable value of God’s grace gift of Jesus Christ in redeeming and renewing their lives.
Therefore, followers of Jesus Christ tangibly express their gratitude as they honor God with their lives (measurably and concretely represented by their money) by undertaking an intentional practice of giving. This disciplined approach puts money back into its appropriate place. The followers of Jesus Christ are masters over their money, not mastered by it, and when money is put into its right place in our lives, then God may have his. And the truth is, He will not settle for anything less.