Is Money Maths, Mammon or Motive?

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This article is part of the MH4C Writers Challenge. I’d like to see which articles you like the most. If you like an article, please take a moment to ‘Like’ it on Facebook, ‘Tweet’ it, or give it a ‘Plus One’ on Google +. (To the right of the title, you’ll see each of those buttons so it should make your job easier.) The winner of the MH4C Writers Challenge is the article that has the most social media shares.

The following entry is by Ted Calvert. In 2010 I resigned from corporate life to give 10 years to development aid efforts and I keep in touch with like minded people via my linkedin account which is:

(Craig here: Ted is from New Zealand so his use of ‘maths’ is grammatically correct according to his teachers, but most US readers simply refer to it as ‘math’)

Chatting to a guest speaker after a service, I mentioned how I was reinventing myself, but after two years I still didn’t really know what my future held. Each assignment I took on made the destination clearer, but like Abraham I had a direction but not all the steps. The woman said her best advice to me was to “walk it out”. The advice has been very helpful to someone like me (I like the future well planned) and it has enabled me to notice that often it is during one stage of the journey that I learn what I need for a later stage.

Walk it out

Most of us learn how to handle money by “walking it out” but the lessons that are there to be learned can be lost if we don’t also reflect on them and make adjustments as we go. A useful way of learning as you walk, or teaching your children as you walk, is to first ask the question; “Is money maths, mammon or motive?”

Like the answer to many questions the response is “yes”, it is all three and I need to understand which element helped me succeed as I walked and which element prodded me to fail. This reflection enables me to take note, adjust or reinforce and move to the next level.

Money is Maths

Money is a concrete object that can be weighed, seen, counted, added, multiplied, divided and subtracted. Maths is emotionless, maths is information. Maths doesn’t tell us what to do, it only provides parameters for us to consider. Most of us can do the maths needed for daily life on our cell phone or spreadsheet. However the concepts usually reserved for corporate life, using higher maths, are helpful to consider in personal decisions even if you cannot get the precision of those who use complex models.

For example picking up a kitten at the SPCA costs less than $50 in New Zealand. If you apply the maths of “whole of life cost” (food / vet / damage…) then conservatively you have just made a $6,000 purchase.

Deciding whether to work extra hours or to reduce your spending requires some understanding of the maths of tax; for many they will need to earn $1,300 to match $1,000 not spent.

The maths of probability and consequence is helpful when it comes to betting against insurance companies who employ the best mathematicians and sales people to bet against you.

The maths list is long but fun to explore, it includes topics such as valuing your time, understanding how fees are applied, sliding scales, interest charges, interest payments, good debt and bad debt……

Money is Motive

Motive drives decisions and actions. Motive can harness emotion or be driven by emotion. At the highest level earning and spending should have the motive of bringing glory to God. Think about these alternative statements or words and the money motives they suggest:

  • Now … Later
  • Hoard … Save
  • Charge usury … Charge interest
  • Wants … Needs
  • Entitlement … Initiative
  • Within the law … Honest

Money is Mammon

Mammon is a metaphoric personification of materialism for the liberals and a demonic spirit for the fundamentalists. What we all experience is something that prods us to give material / financial matters the affection & obedience we owe to God. For liberals, denying themselves stuff is their key form of resistance while for fundamentalists it is prayers of protection. It is logical that mammon works in a subtle way in the west and we expose its influence by asking awkward questions such as: Do my lifestyle choices draw others to Christ or draw others to envy? Are my goals selfish, for me and my family? Do I try and involve God in spending decisions?

As you walk maybe there is a fourth M, Master’s. Money is the Master’s and He has asked us to actively manage it; and our walking companion is the Holy Spirit, who is a whizz at all areas, including maths.


  1. says

    I was thinking way in the world does the title say Maths, but thinks for clearing that it what a difference living in the states make. I agree that based upon the posts we should use are be aware of all three so that we can evaluate our actions. I use money more as math in that I look at the long term of the money. When people say that want I dog my first thing is to say dogs are a lot more expensive then you think and require work and love. Its not just the money you used to purchase them but the food hospital bills, etc. Never really thought about money as a mammon but it makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

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