May 9, 2012

Your Money or Your Life...

When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life;
now that I am old I know that it is.
Oscar Wilde


Most people believe that money is one of the most important things, if not the most important thing, in life. Wars are fought and elections are won or lost over money and how it is used. Marriage relationships are formed and broken over money. Many people spend their lives pursuing it and it has ruined many lives. There is no doubt that money is a very powerful force in the world, yet for most people it is also a very personal and private matter. Most of us who are Christians even view our money as an issue between us and God.

The Bible mentions money more frequently than it mentions salvation and, in the book of Acts, we see an approach to money among the first followers of Jesus that is quite different than today’s norm.

Acts 4:32-35
"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need."

For now the staff members of ADE have chosen to live with what is commonly referred to as a “common purse.” We follow this example, found in Acts, of sharing everything. Any money that is earned is put into a common account and each person’s, or family’s, needs are provided out of this common account or “purse.” None of the ADE staff receives a salary or regular support for the work that we do, rather we all work together on various projects (i.e. running a high school, teaching English and Spanish classes, hosting groups, hosting interns, creating websites, etc.). When income is received from any of these projects, it is shared with the whole group. Some of us share housing, we share two cars, various tools, and even meals at times.

As you can imagine, this leads to some blessings and some challenges (often the two are intertwined). When everything is shared, a sense of community is developed in which each person is valued for who they are rather than what they do or how much money they make. This also means that, if one is comfortable, everyone is comfortable and if one is hungry, everyone is hungry. We share in each other’s joys and struggles and every person’s needs are provided. We also are able to encourage one another in our faith as we pray and wonder where the next week’s or month’s budget will come from. There is a higher level of accountability for each person and family and how they spend their money. Although one person handles the general finances, everyone can see how money is being spent, resulting in more transparency. Sharing housing, tools and vehicles also saves a good deal of money.
There are always frustrations that come with the common purse as well. It is difficult to go to work every day and not have the security of bringing home a paycheck. It can be frustrating to keep track of every expenditure and every receipt. People have different ideas of how money should be saved or spent, which can lead to conflict. It can be difficult to trust in the other members of the team to help bring in money. It can be frustrating not to have full control over how one spends money and to not be able to spend money on occasional luxuries. However, all of these difficulties are outweighed by the benefits. One learns how to depend on God and on fellow workers, how to view all things as belonging to God, how to have self-discipline, how to have good spending habits, how to work with others, how to resolve disagreements, how to be generous and how to share, how to be content with what one has, how to live simply, and how to consider others better than oneself.

This way of life seems very foreign to most of us, but much can be learned from it. God has blessed the staff members of ADE in many ways and has continually provided our daily bread in incredible, and often unexpected, ways as we have endeavored to work together in this manner.

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