Guest Post: Will Berry – Spiritual Abstraction

I certainly don’t agree with everything discussed on TED Talks, but I find some of their content to be quite insightful. I recently watched one of their videos titled “When Money Isn’t Real: The $10,000 Experiment.” It featured a money expert, Adam Carroll, talking about an experiment he enacted on his children. He theorized that his three tween and younger children would play Monopoly very differently if they were to play with real money instead of the flimsy, fake stuff they normally used. He withdrew $10,000 from the bank, and the three kids played Monopoly with all the normal money amounts. He said that the game play was very, very different from normal. There was no money loaned, the jail rules were more strictly enforced, and whereas before they would normally just buy any available properties, or properties that were their favorite colors, they instead focused on what they thought would have the “best return value”.

The point of his talk was that kids do not have good money sense because they don’t see “real money”. They only see the concept of money, and this is called financial abstraction. Credit and debit cards, PayPal, digital money, and gift cards give them the perception that money is not real. So, because young people only think of money as digits on a screen, or borrowed credit that they can just pay back later, they make poor financial decisions. 

I watched this video and couldn’t help but think of many of the young people in my church. Many of them do not have any examples of actual faith in their lives other than those they interact with at church. They are surrounded by people that make poor decisions but promise to “get right with God later.” They are told to live it up now because “you only live once.” They are told to live for right now, disregarding the consequences of their choices. They are told the decisions they make now don’t matter. Some of these young people have “Christian” families and parents but do not have concrete examples of lives directed by faith in God. Because of this, the lessons they are given in Sunday School and in church services are no more than just concepts. Faith is a good thing that they aspire to make a part of their lives, but many of them may never even learn how to do so. 

In his TED talk, Adam Carroll mentions that at one point his nine-year-old son saw him using his phone to make a purchase using Apple Pay. His son said, “I wish I had a phone so I could buy things…” and that really shocked Adam. He did not want his son growing up with that perception of money, so he decided to try to make money real in his son’s life. He began giving his son cash when they would go out shopping, allowing him to make personal choices that would help him to recognize the responsibility involved with spending money.

Like this father and son, there are people in our lives that need us to be an example of faith to whom they can look up and from whom they can learn. Are we living by faith and demonstrating the Biblical principles that we preach? Or has spiritual abstraction caused us to just see faith as a “nice thought”? A far-off principle? Something to be desired but not achieved? Or are we living by faith and taking steps in our lives trusting God to provide? Are those in our lives seeing us act like our Bible heroes who took crazy leaps of faith? 

My desire is for those in my life to see a real example of faith. I know that I have a long way to go in this. It is in me not to give as much to missions as I should, not to win souls with the enthusiasm I should, not to be okay with less “me time”, and to question whether or not that mission trip is worth my precious vacation time. But my wife, family, and those to whom I have the privilege to minister need to see a real example of faith. I hope that those in my life never experience spiritual abstraction, and, if I live like I should, they won’t. 

Will Berry and his wife Megan serve at the Rochester Hills Baptist Church in Rochester Hills, MI, where Will is the youth pastor.

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