Paying and Praying: The Spiritual Implications of Money

By  | February 4, 2014 | 0 Comments | Filed under: Health and Wellness

letting_go_allows_abundance_to_flowIn her transformative book The Soul of Money, fundraiser and global spiritual activist Lynne Twist explores the metaphor of water to invoke the essence of money.  “Money flows through our lives,” she writes, “sometimes like a rushing river, and sometimes like a trickle.  When it is flowing, it can purify, cleanse, create growth, and nourish.  But when it is blocked or held too long, it can grow stagnant and toxic to those withholding or hoarding it.”  Like water, she explains, “money is a carrier.  It can carry blessed energy, possibility, and intention, or it can carry control, domination, and guilt.  It can be a currency of love…or a carrier of hurt or harm.” 


     Spiritual people like Twist have affirmed the sacred implications of money since ancient times.  In fact, the Bible contains more references to money than to any other subject.  Many of us who were raised Christian are familiar with the narrative of the “Cleansing of the Temple” which tells of Jesus and the money changers.  The story occurs in all four canonical gospels of the New Testament.  In this episode, Jesus and his disciples visit Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem where the courtyard was said to be cluttered with livestock and the tables of money changers who converted Greek and Roman currency to that of Jewish and Tyrian.  Jesus dismissed those who sold doves there calling it a “house of trade,“ poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.


     Some contemporary Christians still argue that avoiding monetary transactions, being poor and giving up material goods is the path to a virtuous existence.  This belief is  supported by the Biblical reference:  it is “easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God”  (Luke 18:25).   


     Similarly, a monastic who has been initiated into a religious order may take a vow of poverty.  The difference here, however, is that the person shares all possessions for the common good of the monastery or convent.  In return for their income and services, the order provides them with all their material needs.  This would typically include housing, food, clothing, transportation, healthcare and other benefits needed to maintain physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.  This model also removes the element of competition from the community:  all members are expected to exert a team effort.  This is in tune with a motto of the 21st century:  “cooperation rather than competition.”      


     However, the failed ministries of certain televangelists and the extravagant spending of some Christian leaders have created a tarnished view of Christianity’s perspective on the use of funds and tithes.  Still, many Christians cite Genesis, Hebrews and other Biblical books to confirm what a wonderful opportunity it is to present tithes and offerings to their God.  A tithe is a donation to the Church of  ten percent of all benefits earned such as salary, inheritance, gifts and even the interest earned on bank accounts etc.  When a Christian is obedient in this way, they should expect an abundance of blessings.


     Similarly, the Jewish religion places many social and charitable responsibilities on the wealthy.  Such people are expected to distribute money to the poor.  All who are in this position should help to fund research or scholarships, to build schools etc.  According to the Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Judaism, unlike Christianity, has never viewed poverty as a virtue.  Wealth, however, remains a challenge.   Like Lynne Twist, the Jewish faith views money as a tool that has potential for good or bad applications.   


     Buddhism, on the other hand, sees most earthly wealth as a source of desire and attachment,–both of which are viewed as detrimental to spiritual growth and enlightenment. Like some Christians models, the Buddhist monastic lifestyle is regarded as the only way of being completely free from the evils of wealth.     


     The begging or alms bowl is one of the simplest, but fundamental objects in the lives of Buddhist monks.  It is used to collect alms (either money or food) from lay supporters.  It also has symbolic relevance and is associated with the historical Buddha.  According to legend, a young woman interrupted him when he was meditating under the Bodhi Tree, offering him a golden bowl of rice.  She believed he was the divinity of the tree.  Buddha divided the rice into 49 portions, one for each day until his enlightenment.  He then threw the gilded bowl into the river.  This narrative, other legends and humble monastic uses of the simple begging bowl made it a symbol of the Buddhist teachings of nonattachment.   


         Today, many North Americans take a less austere approach to money, a middle-of-the-road view.  Money allows us to purchase goods and services, they say.  If we have more money, we are able to do and acquire more.  Money might enable us to have many toys (material things).  If they allow us to see and experience Spirit/God, then the toys can rightly be considered tools to aid us on our spiritual path.  If, however, we become overly attached to them, they become impediments on our journey and do not bring us closer to the divine. 


     Other contemporary science-based theologians state that all matter is made of subatomic structures (divine material).  All personal effects, therefore, are constructed of God and truly belong to Him/Her, they say


     Still, practitioners of modern Wicca sometimes cast candle spells to improve their financial situation and bring them personal wealth and prosperity (in a way that does no one harm).  In the Wiccan religion, different coloured candles are lit to enhance a spell’s effectiveness.  Some spells are rather basic, while others quite complex.  What is important is that the Wiccan concentrates on their goal, that they visualize it as they carry out the ritual and truly believe they can achieve this goal.  There are many money spells outlined on the Internet.  One uses virgin candles–one green and one metallic gold.  The spell is to be cast on a Thursday during a waning moon.  The candles are to be rubbed with money oil and lit each evening until burned down completely.   


     Proponents of astrology sometimes focus on an element to improve their resources.  In 2006, American Taylor Ellwood, dedicated himself to the element of Earth for an entire year.  Over the course of that period one of the biggest changes he made involved learning a lot more about how finances work.  The element of Earth deals with practical matters and survival needs, as well as the connection we create with our environment, he says. 


     The spiritual relevance and implications of money are deep–much deeper than a pocket or the pit of a purse.  It is not surprising then, that in English we have over 100 words for “money.”  And in America the currency is stamped “In God We Trust.”  


April Bulmer’s newest book of poetry is called Women of the Cloth (Black Moss Press) and celebrates a syncretism of Christianity and paganism. She holds Master’s degrees in creative writing, religious studies and theological studies.

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