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  • Money = Paper + Faith


    What is money?

    Did you ever ask yourself that? It’s actually a very tricky question. It’s paper plus faith. That’s it. Paper plus faith.

    I work across from the Federal Reserve in Boston. I see the armored trucks drive in and out of their underground bunker all day. Trucks of paper. The US Government prints it, circulates it, and shreds it when they are done. People put their faith in it… a faith secured by the US Government.

    What is the government actually securing? It says it right on each bill “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.” That’s it… debts. US law says that if I want to use this paper to pay a creditor to settle my debts, then I can do that. The creditor can’t take my house or other things of value as long as I’ve provided this paper. Legal tender for debts.

    Interestingly, there is no law that says that I can use this paper to buy goods such as milk, bread or iPhones. If someone required me to pay with kittens or bitcoins, that would be ok. The law is just about debts. You can pay your debts with money.

    So what is debt?

    Did you ever ask yourself that? It’s actually a tricky question.

    I mean if money was created to deal with debts… then debt must have been invented before money, right? If the sole purpose of money is a way to settle debts, then the concept of debt must be bigger than the concept of money.

    Well it is.

    Debt is an obligation. Debt is a feeling. It’s a feeling of obligation and gratitude. When I have a debt of gratitude. I’m indebted to your kindness.

    Some people have a very small view of debt. They believe if their financial debts are paid, then the are debt free. Au contraire. That ignores the debt of gratitude that they owe to the many people who have helped them through their lives. And the debt of gratitude that they owe to God.

    Nobody is debt free. No one.

    I feel a debt of gratitude to the previous generations who built this church. Every week, I sit in a church that they built. I sit in church pews that I didn’t buy. I enjoy an organization that I didn’t build.

    And I feel a debt of gratitude to the generations before me that found the time and money and willpower in their busy lives to make this church. It would be selfish for me to fall into the trap of minimizing or ignoring the sacrifices these previous generations made as compared to my own. I mean, in the early days people didn’t have washing machines and rode horses to church. And here I am. I can barely get myself and the kids out the door on time because everybody is on the ipads and doesn’t have shoes on.

    I’m indebted to the generations before me.

    And I’m not planning to be the generation that doesn’t pull my weight. I’m not going to take these things for granted. I’m not going to let things decay on my watch. That’s the attitude that I take toward my personal property, my church, my community, my nation, my world, and my God.

    When I die, I hope that to leave this church a better institution than when I found it. I hope somebody in the next generation will recognize many things that my generation has contributed to the church. Community outreach. Organ restoration. New worship spaces. I don’t know what that legacy will be exactly, but I hope that our grandchildren and great grandchildren find a great and vibrant church and faith community.

    So, please give to the church this year as a reflection of our debts of gratitude to the many generations before us that brought us to where we are today. And please think about how we’d like the next generation to view our contribution to God’s work.

    Thanks for your attention.

    -Aaron Kneiss