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Checkbook Beatitudes

The 8 lessons of Jesus should guide your spending

By Tom Hoopes

As Lent approaches, it is a good idea to revisit the Beatitudes and see if we live up to them in our lives. One critical question we can ask is: Do the Beatitudes change the way I spend my money?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to say the Beatitudes are reducible to advice about your checkbook. Yet the Beatitudes are designed to touch every aspect of your life that your checkbook has to be involved. Here are some of the ways.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they only spend what they have.
We may complain about government overspending, but the truth is that many of us are not much better. We eat out more than we can afford to, buy more “toys” than we can pay for, fail consult the budget we set up, and build a mounting pile of debt. This approach is the very opposite of “poor in spirit.” But if you spend only what you have, and only on what you need, you are indeed a man of beatitude.

Tom Hoopes, after receiving his master's degree, celebrates with April, who is carrying their ninth child.

Blessed are the meek, for they will invest prudently.
Get-rich-quick schemes took on a whole new meaning in the last few years. Bold investments paid off for some — and led many others to ruin. Meanwhile, those who put their money in careful, prudent investments sometimes gained, but at least fulfilled the lowest goal of investment: They at least got their money back. If your investments are in the “slow and steady wins the race” lane, and you are able to watch the hares without envy, you are truly meek — and strong.

Blessed are those who mourn, for the bill for their party will be reasonable.
Some of us live in a constant state of celebration. This comes from the “you deserve a break today” messages that advertising is eager to send and is far from the reflective, sober life of the beatitudes. It also costs more money. If you see life on earth as a temporary state filled with significance, and worth contemplating quietly, then you are living the third beatitude.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for their money makes everyone's life better.
Self-interest is a healthy factor in economic decisions. We all need to look out for our own needs and futures. If we are Christian, though, we will be aware that in the end, our own self-interest goes hand in hand with society’s. When we hunger and thirst for righteousness, our own charitable contributions go up and the whole society is improved.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be forgiven as they forgive the debts of others.
No, forgiving your brother Bob the 50 bucks he owes you won't make your credit card company decide to give you a pass. Mercy might actually cost you money. But a life lived counting pennies owed us will be a sadder, smaller life than one that is willing to be “penny foolish” and focused on friendship.

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they look past the clothes to the man inside.
Debt is not the only sign of a materialistic spirit. You can pay off your credit card every month and still be dependent on material possessions for your own identity — or your judgment of others. The pure of heart judge others not by their appearances or possessions, but by their dignity as creatures of God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for peace costs less than war.
Divided families learn what countries at war know: harmony is cheaper. The most extreme example is divorce, where spouses must maintain two households. But a household with several people pursuing several pastimes also costs money. Try peacemaking through family activities like game nights or movie nights. It’s cheaper and more fulfilling in the end.

Blessed are the persecuted, for the culture of selfishness doesn’t recognize them.
This Lent, look for sacrifices that hit you where it hurts; in the checkbook. A few ideas: Don’t eat out, live by a budget, give to an effective charity, forgive a debt that has been bothering you, and implement a family night.

Then you will be ready to splurge a little this Easter.