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Reform Magazine | September 19, 2018

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On the pilgrim way: ‘I find it hard to receive’

Sheila Maxey feels uneasiness over money

We are lucky – or should I say ‘blessed’ – to have plenty of money. So, when my Kindle died last week, in the middle of a gripping thriller, it was a nuisance – but I just bought another one. I have always had spiritual struggles over money. I was brought up in a manse with quite a puritanical approach – and money was tight. My father kept strict accounts, tithed carefully and found it hard to approve of trivial spending on new clothes or just pretty things. We were always very conscious of the poor of the world and cleaned our plates because others were starving.

Early on in our marriage, my husband wanted to give me a very expensive (for those days) record player for my birthday. I gave him a very hard time over it – refused to accept it, suggested (like Judas?) that the money should be given to the poor. Gradually over the years I have learned to live with money and to spend it and to enjoy it. But the uneasiness remains, and perhaps it should.

I have come to a kind of agreement with money. I set up standing orders to church and charities. I believe in taxation as a major means of becoming a fairer society. Having sorted out which charities to support, I then feel free to bin most other appeals. I keep trying to work out a consistent approach to the homeless and the beggars who are so common in London and are now even to be found in my local high street. But an agreement with money can just be a way of trying to suppress my uneasiness about having plenty – and can be far more about me than about the poor and needy. It makes sure that the power remains with me.

This is a familiar spiritual dead end. Perhaps I need to change direction (repent?) and look at how I receive, instead of how I give. Yet there, I am also in trouble.

When our dear, hard-up church friend, who also cleans our house, bought me a luxury candle for Christmas, I nearly said: ‘You shouldn’t!’ Our three children – all less well off than we are – want to take us out for lunch for my 80th birthday. But if my wise husband had not stopped me, I would have said that we wanted to pay. (It was quite enough of a present to have their presence.) I find it hard to receive – to let others, no matter how poor, have the pleasure and the power of being the giver.

A thankful heart is what I really need to pray for – thankful for the free beauty of the spring flowers, but also for holidays, for endless visits to the coffee shop with my dear husband, for interesting clothes, for the wherewithal to give generously. After all, as St Paul told the church in Corinth: ‘God loves a cheerful giver,’ not a guilty one.

Sheila Maxey is Book Reviews Editor for Reform

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This article was published in the April 2018 edition of  Reform

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