Some time ago there was an ad on television about stuff. People were shown frustrated because they had too much stuff. They went out and bought some plastic containers and created more room for more stuff!
Most religions point to the challenges of stuff. Jesus for example had strong things to say to wealthy people, comments that did not exactly make him popular. Yet some of the people that helped him were wealthy.
Similarly, there are other spiritual leaders such as Buddha and St. Francis of Assissi who recognized the dangers of welath and stuff and chose instead a more simple path.
What is the problem with wealth? First of all, money can become an idol, a power we turn to for comfort. Secondly, with wealth comes power. Indeed people of welath are often tempted to view themselves as entitled. Finally, making money can become addictive to the point that, just as with drugs and alcohol, there is never enough.
Now before I mislead you, I have to admit that I like some stuff. I like my computur. I like having a car that is only 4 years old instead of the typical 15 years old car I usually drive. I like having a good meal or even just buying a good hotdog at a ballgame. Yet when I hear the words of Jesus, cautioning me about wealth, pointing out to me that people of wealth have as much trouble getting into heaven as “a camel through the eye of a needle”, I get uneasy. Not too promising!
Clearly, if I want to grow spiritually, I have to face the allure of wealth and stuff. One possible guideline can be to try to live from my needs and not my wants. I clearly need much less than I want. Living off of needs is a key to living simply.
Unlike St. Francis, I know I will never give away everything I have and trust completely in God. Yet I remember with some longing when my wife and I were first married living in student housing at Indiana University. We paid $90 a month for our efficiency apartment. We had no car. We lived very simply. Yes, the apartmnent was right next to the laundry and yes the building had lots of cockroaches. But there is something about that life that was good. We lived simply.
I don’t believe we are supposed to walk around feeling guilt. Yet the message is there. Be careful about stuff. It can become a golden calf.
REFLECTION: How do you deal spiritually with the challenges of wealth? What are your attitudes about stuff?
It is ok to have stuff as long as the stuff doesn’t have you!
For me, the challenge—-and it IS a challenge, is to be in a place of neutrality with money because I am perceiving it as a flow of energy. The ego says, “When I’ve got lots of money, I feel good, and when I don’t, I feel bad.” My challenge is to know that how I am and who I am does not depend on how much money I have. When it’s there, I enjoy it. When it’s not there, I enjoy other things like my dog, my solitude, my time in nature, my free gym membership, or reading a good book. I’ve also found that for me, it’s important to keep the flow of prosperity energy going by regularly giving money away in some manner such as a donation to a worthy cause, leaving a generous tip for someone, or gifting someone with something they would really like but can’t afford. Keeping the flow going, living generously, and the really hard one, being detached from how I feel when I have it or don’t have it, are huge spiritual challenges for me around money.
Well, this is a tough topic for me. I like my stuff! I look longingly at the stuff I wish I had but cannot afford (granite counter tops, a glass-top stove, a “Tempra-pudic” mattress, furniture that is not used). Not to mention travel! But here is where it gets to be a bit sticky. I have to choose between having all the things I want and letting the other creatures have some of what they need. Once my husband and I were in a fine dining room at a luxury hotel by the sea. The tables were covered in white linen and the water was poured into crystal glasses. There was lobster and crab and lots of other fabulous food. And then I noticed a stray cat looking at us from behind some bushes. The cat looked hungry, vulnerable, and afraid, but at the same time hopeful for some scrap of food. The problem with my getting everything I want is that there is nothing left over for the other creatures (both human and non-human but I prefer the non-human).
Prosperity truly has little to do with wealth. It has more to do with how one appreciates and use the stuff. I believe all I have is a gift from God; and the God that dwells within me shows me how to use and move my stuff so it is a blessing to others. Our children are on loan to us from God and we learn with them how to keep stuff from overwhelming our lives and becoming more like the golden idol of the Old Testament when we keep GOD first and foremost in all we do.
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