I'm about as free-market as they come, not to mention the last person you'll find joining a commune. All the more, I guess, to take to heart this finding by a group of researchers, that money can undermine community. (As linked to from Greg Mankiw's blog.) As currency, money allows us to be more independent, which is not a bad thing and is actually usually a pretty good thing.

But let's be mindful that while money is neutral, our sinful hearts are not. And so absent actively seeking to reconcile our thoughts and actions to the will of our Maker - interdependent with others, seeking kingdom outcomes, generously helping those in need - we will slide into a me-focused, me-alone lifestyle.

After 9/11 hit, we were told to keep on spending "or else the terrorists have won." Many of us responded to global terrorism by "cocooning," which retailers took to mean convincing us to pimp our kitchens, backyards, and garages. And as people have perceived the economy to be shaky, we've indulged in "stay-cations" in response. These were all times that we could have reclaimed a lifestyle that was more thoughtful about consumption. Instead, we spent ourselves into oblivion and isolation.

Consumption is neutral. But our sinful hearts are not. The faithful response is not to shun money but to master it; or, more accurately, to not let it master me, but rather to remember who my real Master is. My take-away from this recent study's findings is to remind myself to actively seek to use money and consumption for positive ends. Because, without thinking about it, we'll slide into bad habits.
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