After reading “Money, Honey” here on the blog, a reader wrote urging me to dust off my Economics degree and write a bit more here on the blog about women and money.
I don’t mind admitting that all this news about bankruptcy vs. bailout has me thinking today about women in the Bible who were financially independent. Lydia, seller of purple. The Queen of Sheba. Ruth. The wealthy women who had the financial means to help bankroll Jesus’ ministry (Luke 8:1-5) and support the newly founded house-churches that cropped up throughout the Graeco-Roman world as a result of the spreading of the Gospel. These women, like the wealthy philanthropists they were, figured out how to flex their economic muscle and use their money to shape their society according to the values they believed in.
A financially independent woman. Now there’s a thought to ponder in economic panicky times like the ones we live in. Becoming financially independent is not easy for a woman. There’s something about the thought of dependence that seduces us all. ” If only I had…” The vision of the working father and the stay-at-home- wife, and two children, in the doll size house. The story of the kept queen of the manor, with her king off somewhere running the kingdom.
But few of us have the luxury of being taken care of. We either make it on our own or we don’t. We either can support ourselves or we can’t. We either figure out how to take the skills and talents we have to make a living, even thrive, in a period of economic downturn or we have a meltdown of our own.
But here’s what I know for sure: a woman doesn’t become a full self until she figures out a way how to take care of herself financially– even, or especially, in financially difficult times. As long as a woman has yet to know that she’s capable of sustaining herself, as long as she’s economically dependent on others, as long as she is psychologically dependent on someone else for her thinking, her income, and her survival, she does not yet belong to herself.
Out of a healthy sense of independence comes self-esteem, self-discipline, self-worth and self-awareness. And a recognition of the God-self in the self.
Take Ruth in the Bible. Ruth, the alien, the minority, the woman of color, the “other” in a Jewish world. Widow, foreigner, destitute, and with a clincally depressed mother-in-law dependent on her, Ruth comes up with a plan on how to take care of Naomi and herself. She studies an economic system designed to drive women out of the work force and into the arms of patriarchal men, and figures out a way to create work for herself. She decides on a plan on how to make a living off the system. Ruth the entrepreneur. Ruth the business woman. Ruth the corporate woman. Ruth the woman thinking of ways to have multiple streams of income. She is a good worker. She tries harder. She works longer. She is a fast understudy. She’s swifter worker than the regular field hands. She asks for no special favors and she looks for no benefactors. Ruth makes it on her own.
Like Ruth, the women of the world over find an near-empty field nearby, tie their babies to their backs, roll up their sleeves, and bend down and pick up the scraps left behind in the field so that at the end of the day they can walk through the door and say to everyone waiting, not only “We’ll eat tonight” but “I can do this. We will survive, come what may.”