• Would you spend $15,000 on a meal?

    Posted by John

    8 August, 2011

    I learned very early on in my working life the importance of a dollar.

    The organisation I worked for early in my career partnered with poor communities in Africa. At the end of each month we would transfer funds to help pay salaries. If we didn't meet budget at the end of the month, I would get paid first, followed by the senior staff in Africa, the project managers etc etc and on down the line it went. The person that would miss out was the driver or the cook or the cleaner - the person that no doubt needed it the most. In this context, I learned to value every dollar.

    While I have mellowed a little in my penny watching over the years, I still have experiences that make me feel completely at sea. Last week I had one of those experiences.

    I was out to dinner with some old friends from school. Most of my old school mates work in the finance sector. It is a different world to the world I live in. We started talking about expense accounts and work lunches. One of the boys piped up with this question.

    'Boys, some clients took us out for dinner recently. There were 8 of us...guess how much it cost?'

    I realise I've given it away in the title to this blog post, but the conversation went something like this. One of the boys started....

    'I reckon $2,000'...
    'No'
    '$2,500??'
    'No. Higher....'
    '3??'
    'Higher'
    '4??'
    A simple shake of the head and a point of the finger to the sky sufficed this time
    '5??? 6?? 7??'
    I chimed in with a disbelieving 'get lost!!'
    '8?'
    'Higher!!'
    'We give up.....just tell us'
    'FIFTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS'

    That's right. One meal - eight people - $15,000. I was in disbelief.

    As someone who values every dollar, I rate this kind of wastage somewhere on the high end of the scale from disappointing to obscene.

    I acknowledge the privilege that I have had of being so close to the need in our world, of being able to count the poor as friends. But I don't believe it should take a face to face encounter with real poverty for Christians to recognise the value of every dollar.

    'The earth is the Lord's and everything in it.' (Psalm 24:1)

    That's pretty clear. My school mates are not believers but experiences like last week make me question whether we have really understood the notion that we are stewards of God's earth and God's resources. Have we really grasped the notion that all we have is given by God to us and our responsibility is to use it all for the sake of God's kingdom?

    What does that look like when you consider what you do with every dollar that is entrusted to your care? There are some tensions aren't there. I don't have any formulaic answers for you because every person's situation is different. Maybe you have thoughts....please share.

    • I know it will mean looking after your family
    • I know it will mean investing in initiatives that glorify and honour Jesus as Lord
    • I know it will mean caring for the poor and seeking justice
    • I know that it will mean enjoying the fruits of God's creation...but in a responsible way

    As a starting point....how about making that work dinner a $500 dinner and giving the remaining $14,500 to someone that is going without dinner that night....just a thought.

    ______________________

    John Beckett (known to most of us as JB) is the National Coordinator of Micah Challenge Australia. JB desires to see more and more Christians taking on justice, mercy and humility as a way of life and speaking, praying and acting for and with the global poor.