The late Allan Sherman’s “Waste of Money” chronicles the futile efforts of a man who decides that the best way to get a girl is to buy a bunch of expensive stuff, like a Mercedes-Benz and a fancy haircut. It doesn’t go well (even though it ends up well), and it’s darn hilarious. But it’s also a stark commentary on reality.
We show others what’s important by what we’re willing to spend our money on. Some wise dude once said that where we put our money is where our heart is. We pay for what we value.
Once we do, there’s no shortage of folx telling us that we wasted our money. They’d rather project their own values onto everyone else. How dare poor people waste food stamps on slightly-above-bottom-tier food? How dare they take a vacation when they have credit card debt? How dare they replace their broken car with a new used one when they can’t afford a house? How dare they eat avocado toast when they have student debt? How dare they allocate billions to the military-industrial complex and promote the cause of war, death, and mindless destruction while there are still people starving in the streets?
I’m guilty of this myself. It’s hard not to. It would be easy if we all shared the same values, but we don’t. Plenty of people make what are poor decisions with their money in my opinion, wasting their cash on things and people that aren’t important (hell, I uplifted my life and entered a period of unemployment and risky finances in order to move closer to a partner who wanted nothing to do with me anymore). And there are probably a small set of financial decisions that are either objectively good or bad.
I can’t really control how other people express their values, and I probably can’t all that accurately judge whether or not those values are worth the price. All I can do, all we can do, is ensure to the best of our ability that the way we make decisions–financial or otherwise–expresses our values. If it doesn’t, we either need to reevaluate our decisions or be honest about our values.
Mary anointed Jesus’s feet because she loved him, and we do crazy expensive things for those we love. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s a lot right with it. Be like Mary.