Our Attitude toward Money
(Before and After Tsunami)
By Said Muniruddin
“Do you think wealth can make you immortal and live happily?”, a rhetorical question can be found in many religious teachings. God the Almighty poses us this question since we have a tendency to become a materialistic society.
However, human beings are likely to forget this message. Sometimes, God has His own strict way to teach His creatures on how to behave and live in a proper way. Tsunami is believed to be a sign from God to make us realize that we may not worship our money, wealth, assets or properties. Acehnese are one of communities that have the honor to be directly taught by God. Now, compared with the moment before Tsunami, they have different attitudes in the efforts to get money and to spend it.
Before tsunami, we spent plenty of time to seek for money. We fully believed that the more money we earned, the happier we were. Most of the time, we forgot to devote our self to God. We were busy working only to get private benefits; surely, we ignored social value. We became a materialistic society. Everything was measured with money. You were respected when you had a big house and an expensive car. Therefore, people began to compete to succeed. For money, we dared to kill each others. To get income, we stole something which actually belonged to the needy. In short, we respect money as another object to be worshiped beside Him.
Moreover, we saved some amount of money collected as a reserve for our children, with the hope that it could be used until the next seventh generation. Anytime we met handicapped beggars on the street, we just simply said, “Don’t ask for money from me, just work hard man!!” We had totally forgotten what the Holy Book says that there is always a little sum of money for the poor in every single property we own. We spent hundred thousands to million Rupiah for food, clothes and other related private needs, while we donated only a hundred Rupiah to a homeless person. This was a real fact; similarly, it did not only occur in Aceh, but also in many places on earth.
After tsunami, we felt shocked when all of our belongings we had collected for many years disappeared at a glance. Our pride on our house, car, and wealth has been taken away by the tidal waves. Since then, we have understood that our properties are nothing, mostly if earned them by wrong doing. The most meaningful money was what we had spent for the poor, not what had lost during the disaster. As a result, we have a new consciousness: “Spend your money before the next tsunami visit you, work hard for your family and never forget to worship God, pay a serious attention to the needy, and don’t be a materialistic citizen. We get new lesson that is “the richest people are those who share their money to the poor, not those who save for their own need”. In a simple word, God tells us, “be generous!”.
To sum up, the Acehnese thank God for having sent tsunami to open their mind to be a wise, good, and religious society. It seems that tsunami in Aceh is also a warning from God to other societies. As though God wants to say, “If you will not change your habit toward money as soon as possible, be ready to accept something worse than what happened in Aceh”. *****
(This is a writing assignment during the Pre-Academic Training [PAT] of Ford Foundation International Fellowship Program [FF-IFP] at PPB-UI Salemba, Jakarta: September 2004 – March 2005).