Monday Update – Accounting!

Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.

Proverbs 13:11

No, I’m not going to bore you with my rabbit hole journey back into school. Rather, I want to talk about the experience of it. Frankly, the whole situation seems weird enough to write a whole article about it.

Returning to academic work, especially material out of your field of view, remains especially jarring. As a help to my father, I’ve decided to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting as quickly as possible. Online learning makes this a possibility, and I can technically do all the work I do on Theology Gaming at the same time. Just so you, dear reader, know, I have zero prior experience with anything on the business side of college life; my day were spent in quiet contemplation of life’s largest issues – mostly religion and philosophy – so the small scale of accounting (and business law) seems a far cry from it.

And yet, I find accounting rather satisfying to learn. Not only does it place me out of my comfort zone – everyone needs a jostling every once and a while – it teaches me entirely new skills. Let me be blunt: I have never been good with money, and I believe I’m speaking to the majority of video gamers when I say we, collectively, spend way too much money on whatever stuff comes our way. Accounting places these expenses into quantifiable, sharp relief. Everything within its purview comes from a definite source, and while the recordings/evidence of said transaction might not be recorded correctly, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Any shady deals or foul plays will be found out.

This is why accounting is a form of monetary ethics. Even the textbook makes sure to emphasize that accountants must pursue an ethical stance on all of their work, avoiding subjective alliance with the investigated personality or company in question to see the real numbers. Accountants avoid conflicts of interest whenever possible, and to avoid personal gain via cooking the books at all costs, for the long-term affects could be dire. Other people rely on the information accountants provide, and if that information proves wrong, you could crumble a whole organization of people with lives, families, and other obligations. It is, weirdly enough, a noble profession – in the modern age, the pen (or keyboard and mouse combo, whatever floats your boat) is mightier than the sword.

Just studying this, the first question that comes to mind is: why, exactly, do we delegate these tasks to professionals? I mean this in the sense of knowing your own personal income, monetary finances, and other such states. You might say “well, I just don’t have time for that”, and that remains an acceptable answer, but there’s also a trick in there. Not thinking about money allows us to spend money as we see fit; to some degree, it places finances out of our mind so that we can enjoy what we enjoy, do what we do, and (especially) buy what we buy without thinking about it. Imagine how many people in modern life get caught in a cycle of work-spend-work-spend without finding hope, regardless of how much they make, and I think you’ll begin to see my point.

In a strange way, we place the ethical concerns of money use to an external authority, who then provides us with an official set of financial statements so that we rest in comfort. Given the complexities of modern society (and the vast, vast system of the free market), I can understand this. But, in another sense, that doesn’t mean you merely place the obligation elsewhere. The expert will always know better than Quickbooks, for example, and you will probably save a whole lot more funds just via deductions than you would by other means. In effect, I’m recommending (via experience) a strange middle ground between knowing your money and not spending frivolously. In this case, knowledge is power. Being a fool about it won’t help.

Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, since he has no desire to get wisdom?

Proverbs 17:16

I guess this also frustrates me about churches, as well: I never know how much they spend, nor do I really want to know. Such meetings are relegated to the sidelines, where only a select few will discover the horrors behind how ministry people use the funds of the church to place it God knows where. It’s why my father doesn’t go to such meetings – it would drive him crazy to see inefficiencies and waste in the functioning of a church. Christians could stand to learn how to manage money, and we seem to think we’re a Dave Ramsey course away from God’s financial freedom or some such bull. That stuff is all frills and games, and not all of it is universally applicable (that’s another whole article unto itself).

Thanks goodness we have a God who somehow manages to let events work as He desires even though we stumble through life sometimes! That’s still no excuse for a Christian organization or person to use their money in unwise ways, though. Do video games even constitute a good reason to spend in a ministry? I can’t really say, honestly. I have no objectivity regarding the subject matter! Rather, I need to learn the skills necessary to examine closely what, exactly, I spend my money on, and really consult with God to see if it’s an appropriate use of the money He deigns to grant to us. I am blessed to live in the first world, but that understanding comes with obligations.

Because, really, in the end, God owns you and all of your stuff. Some denominations emphasize tithing, but that’s really the principle they mean to illustrate: if you aren’t willing to give up your money for a higher purpose, you really need to have a little more faith and a little more trust in God that He knows what He’s doing with your finances. And if you actually know them, you might have a little more faith in your ability to give.

There you go, theology and accounting!

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.