Lately I have been pondering differences in cultures – African vs. Western – concerning money and faith. Marriage is actually a third that is still rolling around in my mind.
Money. I was at the settlement this past week and noticed M had some earphones like the ones I use with my IPod. I asked her about them and she showed me her new cell phone. She can listen to the radio through it! I was amazed and wondered if I could listen to the radio through mine. She checked and said, “no, but for R50 I could get one like hers.”
R50 is the equivalent to $7.50-$8.00. This does not sound like much until you remember that a good day’s wage for her is R100. Just the week before, I had taken M some food and after looking it over, she asked if I could give her ~R20 for taxi fare to the clinic to pick up her medication. How can someone buy an expensive cell phone knowing that there might not be food to eat or money for necessities? It just boggles my mind.
Why does the African spend all he has today and not save for tomorrow? The Bible teaches a balance between giving and saving/providing for your own needs and sharing with others in need. My parents never bought anything they could not pay for in cash. They did have a mortgage on their home, but I have a childhood memory of when it was paid off. Even with cars, they saved and paid cash. Three children were put through college without debt, by a combination of saving and living on a tight budget.
In some ways our culture in America is changing to be more like the African – living for today. People are content if they can pay their mortgage, with no thought to ever paying it off. When there is extra money, bigger houses are bought. Why pay off your charge card when you can just pay the minimum balance. What has caused this change in thinking? Is it just a simple case of materialism? I would love to hear your thoughts on this! It does have spiritual implications.