Money, Extremism, and Martin Luther King Jr.

January 16, 2023

What you do with your money says a lot about you.

One thing it shows is what kind of an extremist you are.

You might say: “No? Not me. I’m no radical.”

C’mon all of us are fanatical about something, even if it’s the couch. And one thing revelatory about our fanaticism is found in where we put our money. 

It reveals who we are.

Your finances show whether you are extremist for travel or charitable giving or family or church or your job or the Republican party or leisure or justice or remodeling or injustice or community or cars or shopping or the Democratic party or entertainment or ranching or bourbon or books or being a mom or dad. You fill-in-the-blank with virtues or vices and main and mundane things.

What kind of extremist have you been?

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He was pejoratively titled an extremist in his day. At first it bothered him. But then he realized that not only have many great men been given that title throughout history, everyone is an extremist for something.

In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” he wrote:

So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus."…And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.1

What could you be? What kind of creative extremism might you be able to launch into the world for the good of the world?

It might be small. It might be big. You may get applause or no recognition at all. You may look like a fool or a genius.

But it matters.

And your money has this magical way of not only showing you the kind of extremist you are, but who you really are.