Thursday, March 17, 2011

For Richer or Poorer

Author: Trust in God to Find True Wealth
Book Exposes Spiritual Side of Money Management
By Traci Osuna
HYATTSVILLE, Maryland, March 17, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Gregory S. Jeffrey has spent the last 25 years working as a development consultant, helping Catholic schools, parishes and organizations around the country with their fund-raising campaigns. Throughout his career, Jeffrey has met people from all walks of life, from those struggling to make ends meet to others at the pinnacle of corporate success. And, he says, he sees a common thread -- everyone he's met has real concerns about their financial situation.
"One of the things I discovered early on, probably three or four years into my career," he said in a phone interview with ZENIT, "was that money alone didn't erase people's worries about money."
In his new book, "Why Enough is Never Enough: Overcoming Worries about Money -- A Catholic Perspective" (Our Sunday Visitor), Jeffrey explores why so many faithful Catholics struggle daily with concerns about their material well-being.
As a development consultant, Jeffrey has discussed tithing and donating to the Church with everyone from suburban mothers concerned with balancing their household budgets to business tycoons wrestling with just how much they can afford to donate to their parish. What he has found is that people from all backgrounds and from all tax brackets worry about their financial situation in one way or another. And while it would seem that simply having more money would help ease our worries, he says that this is often not the case.
Among the many incidents he shares in his book, Jeffery said that one in particular stands out to him: "I gave an example in the book of a gentleman who made a $100,000 pledge to his daughter's Catholic high school. Then he leaned forward, and with a very grave face, said to me, 'If my wife finds out, you guys aren't going to get a dime.'"
Taken aback, Jeffrey said he wasn't sure if the man was kidding or very serious: "He sat back in the chair [...] and he got very reflective. And he said, 'My wife doesn't understand that we've got enough money to last several lifetimes.' It just struck me: here was a woman married to a guy at the pinnacle of corporate success and no matter how he tried to reassure his wife, he couldn't." Jeffrey noted that, while it may be difficult to understand, this fear is actually very common.
A journey
"This experience got me thinking," the author continued, "that there's got to be something else at play here other than the amount of wealth. There are a lot of books on the market that try to address that issue of bringing our spending into line with our income […] and, in a way, that's good. But where [they] fail to go far enough is helping people realize that once they get their household budget balanced and once they get a little bit of money saved in the bank, don't immediately assume that that alone is going to solve this overwhelming anxiety that some people continually feel about money."
Compared to other books on the market, Jeffrey's book is different in that it leads the reader on a journey to reflect on one's financial situation, including one's overall trust in and relationship with God. "I actually wanted to title the book 'Why Enough is Never Enough: Making Peace with God and Money.' I thought that would have been a more accurate title but my editor didn't think so, that's why I ended up with the longest subtitle in the world," he said with a laugh.
Jeffrey acknowledges that one's financial situation can be a difficult subject to talk about, even with one's spouse. For that reason, each chapter in the book concludes with several reflection points that aim to help stimulate those important conversations. He said that he hopes these discussion points will allow true feelings, and possibly some fears, come to light.
"Once you start talking about money, part of your interior life [becomes exposed]," Jeffrey commented. "It's hard to discuss our financial situation because it opens the door to […] other areas of life. That's my premise; whether it's true or not, I'll leave that up to the reader to determine."
Jeffrey told ZENIT that even the strongest Catholics have trouble letting go of their money concerns: "It's one thing to sit in Mass and hear a sermon about trust in God; [but] when you really have to put that into practice […] that's where it becomes really hard."
He referred to the story found in Luke's Gospel (Luke 18:18-24) in which a young man asks Jesus what he needs to do to gain eternal life. When Jesus responds that the man should sell all his possessions, give his wealth to the poor and follow Jesus, the man goes away sad.
Walking the walk
He explains that in his visits to parishes all over the country, he continually encounters the same types of people: "It's like they've attained everything […] they're great members of the Church, they're spiritually on fire for the Lord; but they haven't been able to take that one final step of saying to the Lord, 'Ok, I know you'll take care of me if I give away even some small portion of my assets.' It's so sad to see; but it's hard and the thing is, I place no judgment on those people, whatsoever, because the hardest part about writing this book was having to take my own advice."
Jeffrey shared how he struggled with accepting God's providence at work in his own life.
He is very honest in sharing how it was his wife who led him down the path to having a greater trust in God when it came to his family's finances. In his book he shares several examples of how his trust in God was answered speedily once he finally took the steps toward giving of himself.
Another issue that Jeffrey takes on in his book is the commonly, but unjustly, held belief that wealth equates greed. "That attitude bothers me, because fundamentally it's an injustice rooted in prejudice against the wealthy. And all prejudice I find repugnant."
Jeffrey adds that, throughout his career, he has worked with a lot of wealthy people and feels he has a more well-rounded view of the wealthy: "This is not to say that there are not greedy people; there are greedy people […] I've worked for plenty of them. But to take this broad brushstroke to say anybody who has attained success in business must have gotten there because they're greedy is just hogwash.
"But here's the thing," he adds, "as long as there is a common belief that only the rich have to deal with greed, 95% of us have excused ourselves from self-reflection. That's why it's so dangerous."

1 comment:

  1. Very reflective and fascinating Patty, thanks!

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