The Spiritual Side of Money

This page is not advocating for any one set of beliefs, but rather examining the ways that our moral, spiritual, and religious views filter the relationship we have with our pocketbook.  Spirituality is an aspect of many people’s lives. We’ll talk about it here from an anthropological lens, but never as matter-of-fact.
If you’d like to learn about the spiritual traditions of the world (again, from a purely anthropological lens) click the button below.

Spirituality is a large and nebulous word.  Let’s break down some of the things we’ll uncover below:

 

  • How money ties into our Meaning OF Life
  • How money acts as an Enabler to allow for a greater sense of purpose, intention, and joy
  • How our Meaning OF Life impacts the way we use money to have more Meaning IN Life
  • Commonly Held Spiritual and Religious views around money
  • How our dreams and sense of purpose factor into the ways we make and spend our money
  • How we make our money matters (The Bliss Map)

 

 

According to The Washington Times, 84% of the world has some type of faith or religion.  With that, at least 84% of the world’s beliefs on money are impacted by some sense of morality or spiritual beliefs.

Figuring out how to express meaning, purpose, a higher “calling,” or even merely feeling “good” when it comes to money is dependent.  Dependent upon what? Dependent on the manual or set of rules we’ve come to believe about life. Some of these different manuals or beliefs have been around for thousands of years.  

Internally separating from beliefs that have been passed down from our great great great, (say great about 100 more times) grandparents is no easy task.  Considering how long our spiritual beliefs have been evolving, it can be easy to take these elements of our culture for granted. They even seep into our sense of personal identity without us realizing.

In addition to us being impacted by our own spiritual beliefs, or lack thereof, we are constantly rubbing shoulders with others who have a defined Meaning Of Life or Why We Are Here.  Our world is forever shaped by the PEOPLE that make up our respective cultures: family culture, national culture…race, class, etc…  One example is that devout Muslims and Christians have different ideas about money, while both believing to be honest and pious.

For those saying, ‘What if I’m an Atheist or Agnostic? This page has nothing for me.’ No worries, we’ve considered that too.  These (spiritual) beliefs aren’t only limited to religion. There are a whole slew of people who now identify more with the term “spiritual” than “religious.”  Some of these more spiritual or moralistic views include not wanting to buy from companies who use child labor, pollute the environment, or that support causes we oppose.

It’s hard to achieve a sense of peace or joy when there is a lack of alignment between our beliefs, morals, values, and actions.  For instance, one very rarely meets a Buddhist Monk who spends their nights and weekends as a weapons dealer. If our career is the vehicle we use to get where we are going, a sense of purpose, meaning, or deeper spiritual beliefs are the navigation system that directs our journey. 

“We’re here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark.” ―Whoopi Goldberg

Try This: Quick Check-In
  1. What are five spiritual or moralistic beliefs that you have about money?
    1. ______________________________________________________________
    2. ______________________________________________________________
    3. ______________________________________________________________
    4. ______________________________________________________________
    5. ______________________________________________________________

Money and the Meaning OF Life

These spiritual and moral beliefs around money have a Starry Night/Mist  quality, meaning they fall into beliefs around what is The Meaning OF Life.  Innate in people is the desire to understand the Meaning OF Life, such as ‘Where do we come from?’ or “Why are we here?’  When someone’s concept of meaning is firmly rooted in an “OF Life” perspective, seeing Meaning “IN Life” (as we get from the 4 Cornerstones of Meaning) becomes the vehicle used to help enhance one’s Meaning “OF Life.” The two lenses, Meaning ‘OF’ and ‘IN’ Life, function together to create an even stronger, interwoven map for how to live a life in accordance with one’s values.

For Metaphor’s Sake, Let’s look at our beliefs and money through a more simple lens:

  • Us Human Beings = Kindergartener’s during arts and crafts time that have been given crayons and are excited to scribble.
  • Life = The process of us all sitting down to draw
  • One’s Meaning Of Life = A picture we’re supposed to color within. These lines & pre-colors form a picture that resembles a story, and are seen through faithful belief.
  • One’s Meaning In Life = Color on the page, whether inside or outside of lines. This framing brings the awareness that color CAN go anywhere, and adds value to the page where/however we choose to draw it.
  • Meaning = Color on the paper, the “substance” of life

Money as an “Enabler”

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” – Mahatma Gandhi.

Included in “What you do” is how we spend our money.  If we are spending money in accordance with our integrity or values, money becomes an Enabler, or tool for creating happinessEnablers are the skills, tools, and philosophies that enhance our ability to live with more purpose, intention, and joy.

Let’s look at the relationship between money and these enablers as more of a sliding scale from 1 to 100 than a “yes” or “no” thing.  For instance, going slightly against one’s own religious beliefs might not make life unbearable, but may cause one’s sense of financial peace to be at a 95 out of 100.  This relationship applies to how we both make and spend our money.  

Here’s a central point to this page:
Giving to causes or charities we believe in enables one’s ability to tap into a deeper sense of meaning.  The measure to which we do so lines up with the amount of peace we feel. Not doing so would not keep one from completely finding Meaning In Life, but makes it harder to do so.  If our money is being spent in alignment with our integrity, values, and beliefs; our ability to find Meaning in Life is greatly enhanced.

A Few Common Enablers to Explore:

  • Gratitude – Money can be given to the Church, Mosque, charity, or environmental cause of choice as an expression of gratitude and as an act of service.
  • People – Being part of a community, such as a Church, Mosque, or Tribe might come with certain cultural expectations, like an increased sense of family and taking care of each other.  Being part of a community is proven to be the strongest predictor of happiness.
  • Freedom/Peace – “Right and Wrong” – Living in accordance with what one has come to view as the “Right” way of living.  
  • Security– In other cultures, buying in to the cultural/spiritual traditions of a group, such as contributing to causes important to the community, might be a way of ensuring safety and acceptance as a part of a group.  For example, imagine being part of a tribe where everyone sacrifices “gifts” to the tribe’s God, and being the only member of the tribe to say, “No thanks.” The sense of belonging and security one might feel would probably take a huge hit.

Money as a “Boundary”

A Boundary is the place where our Meaning OF Life and our Meaning IN Life bump up against each other.  Usually it’s not as clear as when we think of a fence. Our boundaries have more of a sense of interaction and overlap than a clear sense of separation.  A few examples below should provide a bit of illumination:

  • Amish view paying back debts or credit in a timely manner as an important value (this action can be viewed as a way of using money to express or show love in the form of action).
  • Tithing in the Christian religion can be viewed as an act of love, gratitude, and service
  • Cultural views often advocate or discourage having a job within nonprofits or related to spirituality (popes, monks, witch doctor) as the “right” thing to do or as a stronger “should.”   An example is the practice of many younger Thai males becoming Monks for a brief period in their young adulthood (this could also fall under the Service Cornerstone).  Many Thai employers even look at whether or not a male has done this service yet when deciding whether or not to hire him.
  • Islamic Banking – “There should be absolutely no investment in unsuitable businesses, including those involved with armaments, pork, tobacco, drugs, alcohol or pornography.”

Exploring a Few Commonly Held Beliefs

Our spiritual beliefs take us far and deep. For many of us, they provide a lens through which to see ourselves, humanity, and even all of reality. Despite such breadth, everyone’s spiritual lens is uniquely theirs

Now, imagine trying on someone else’s lenses. Could we possibly comprehend the differences we see in perception.
We’re going to do our best to try on a few different pairs here. Let’s see what we learn about money in doing so.

All of the below beliefs are held (by the individual) with various degrees of certainty. Remember that 0-100 scale we talked about above? We’ll see the presence of the more-extreme beliefs, viewed as “Spiritual Laws,” “Universal Laws,” “Right,” or even “Universally True.”  Here are a few common beliefs around money that look at money more through a spiritual or moral lens:

  • Tithing –  This principle is outlined in the Bible or the book, The Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity by Edwene Gaines.  Tithing is the concept of giving back ten percent of one’s income to the organization or source of where one is fed spiritually.  Historically, Religious groups have received the largest share of charitable donations, 31% as of recently. Those who believe in this principle hold it as a law of nature/economics, in that not giving back to God the first ten percent of one’s wages is “amoral” or void in some way without adhering to it.  A common example of a struggle with this principle is when someone who believes in tithing marries someone who doesn’t and they must decide whether or not to give part of their income to God. 
  • Firms of Endearment – The concept of this book is that an organization’s duty is to all stakeholders and that the way it treats its employees is more important than just making money.  These organizations have taken steps that many others in the industry have considered foolish, such as paying wages well about industry standards, providing more-than-necessary health care for its employees, providing scholarship money for employees, and refusing to lay-off workers even in hard times. Those who believe in this style of business posit that the human is more important than the dollar and that treating humans well leads to increased revenue. This type of business would find it challenging to do things they feel are unethical or negatively impact their employees for the sake of making more money.
  • Abundance Mentality – A similar, but less traditionally/religiously attached principle is talked about in Creating Affluence by Deepak Chopra.  Chopra touches on Charity as a thing that leads to abundance.  A commonly held belief around giving to charity is that it creates abundance via showing one’s mind that we have money to give away and thus have an abundance of money.  This thinking in terms of abundance ‘There is enough for both myself and others’ vs. scarcity is a concept others refer to as the Law of Abundance.
  • Adding Value – This concept goes somewhat in tandem with the views held in either Conscious Capitalism or Firms of Endearment in that people see making money as accomplished through adding value, or giving back, to society.  These individuals view their work partially as a means of Service to the world, feeling that in doing so they will naturally make money. They also believe that the more one’s work is of service to society and the bigger the problem it solves, the more one will naturally make.
  • Right Livelihood – “Right livelihood is one of the branches of the eightfold path that is often skimmed over. It seems so simple and unproblematic: don’t earn money in a profession that brings harm to others.”  This article goes on to further define practices that might go against this belief as, “Monks, a lay follower should not engage in five types of business. Which five? Business in weapons, business in human beings, business in meat, business in intoxicants, and business in poison,” according to the Anguttara Nikaya. “Monks and contemplatives should steer clear of fortune telling, blood sacrifices, and other “base” or “lowly” arts, the Digha Nikaya reads. The career of a soldier or actor is also full of dangers to the soul, warns the Samyutta Nikaya, and any activity requiring dishonesty and injury will annul spiritual progress.”
  • Law of Attraction– The concept believes that we have the ability to attract whatever we think about into our lives. This way of thinking has enabled many to achieve large-scale success. Some famous proponents of the Law of Attraction are Jim Carrey and Connor McGreggor.  This belief is also closely linked with visualization.  

Most of the challenge with this belief is that visualization or thought will only get us so far.  For example, if a homeless person were to think about mansions every day, would they really find themselves dwelling in a mansion sooner or later?  Many believe that the Law of Attraction is not enough to get one to accomplish things that might otherwise be impossible. 

The other piece that feels a bit challenging for some to believe centers around “vibrational frequencies,” aligning ourselves with the vibrational frequencies of the things we desire, and the belief that ‘if we believe with enough conviction, we can bring anything to reality.’  Another way of explaining the belief is that by focusing on the things we want, and thinking about them as if we already have them, we create the vibrational frequencies for us to actually receive them. Our take is that the Law of Attraction is often misunderstood. In and of itself, thinking about things might not bring them into reality.  However, thinking about things consistently might create the perseverance to work towards a strategy that might otherwise be ignored.

Try This: Quick Check-In
  1. What three beliefs or statements above most stood out to you? Why?
    1. ______________________________________________________________
    2. ______________________________________________________________
    3. ______________________________________________________________

Following Our Dreams

“It is better to risk starving to death than surrender. If you give up on your dreams, what’s left?” — Jim Carrey.

The Power of a Purpose
When one’s Meaning Of Life and Meaning In Life, find alignment financially, the sense of motivation seems to transform one’s relationship with money into a Higher Purpose.  These beliefs and the accomplishment of these goals then become an expression of one’s sense of values and even become a means of furthering our sense of Meaning.  

When money has a purpose, we are no longer working for the money.  The money then becomes a tool that we are using to help accomplish the goal, whether it’s retirement, spending more time with our kids, or having more free time to pursue our passions.

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.” —Maya Angelou

In The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life, Twist describes money almost like water, in that it has a flow to it. Like water, each dollar bill is like a drop falling or flowing to its destination.  A number of spiritual beliefs look to things like purpose, meaning, tithing, or giving to charity. These causes are the destinations of finances. The more one has a specific destination for where these finances (or drops of water) are going, the easier it seems to be for money to flow through one’s life. Some more practical examples of an end destination for one’s finances are getting out of debt, saving up for a wedding ring, or saving for retirement.  Without a concrete goal or destination for this flow of money, the desire and ability to create a large flow of finances in one’s life seems more difficult and less worthwhile.  

When having a very specific end destination, money can develop momentum and begin flowing like a mighty roaring river. Also, when not having an end destination for this flow of money, the money can become something that an individual tries to hold on to, and thus slows down the flow of money, becoming more like a trickle.  

Having a “why” that is bigger than ourselves seems to be the most fulfilling way of achieving extreme levels of financial success.  And yet, for most of us, massive financial success isn’t what it’s all about. The reason that we bring up this type of success is to highlight that even financial goals are rarely achieved without a deep, burning reason or “why.”

The Four Cornerstones are the four pillars through which human beings find and create meaning.  When money taps into Service, Discovery, Love, and Expression, it becomes a way of bringing us deeper meaning or purpose.

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

Try This: Quick Check-In
  1. What three recent purchases/expenditures that have allowed you to feel like your money was being used with a sense of purpose?
    1. ______________________________________________________________
    2. ______________________________________________________________
    3. ______________________________________________________________
  2. What are three of your “whys” that add a sense of motivation to each week?
    1. ______________________________________________________________
    2. ______________________________________________________________
    3. ______________________________________________________________

How You Make Your Money Matters

Purpose Driven Workers – Whether it be a gift or a curse, these individuals are ones who you won’t find pushing papers around and fretting over TPS reports.  Getting caught in the rat race would feel like torture or even feel like “wasting one’s talents.” This view can be found in a variety of cultures and beliefs.  Examples are Monks, Catholic Priests, and anyone who believes in a “calling.”  

The Bliss Map is a great place to examine how to find a greater sense of joy and purpose through work.  The four components of the Bliss Map are: Good at it, Paid for It, World Needs It, and in Love it. Jobs void of us feeling in Love with the work, often lack that spark that enables us to call it a passion, mission, or to feel fulfillment.  The more of these four components we experience through work, the more work will feel life-giving and full of purpose.

Examples include The Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity, where Gaines believes that finding and committing to a divine purpose puts one in a position to truly benefit the world and unlock the highest potential version of ourselves.  Deepak Chopra, in his book called Creating Affluence believes that each of us must know our purpose and that we are all here to fulfill this purpose.

Holding onto money without a sense of purpose (clearly saving for something more meaningful) is often done in a state of fear, or belief that ‘having money will bring security.’  Without this end destination for the money, the desire to persist and continue in figuring out how to create a stronger flow for money usually loses steam. 

A mighty “why,” passion, purpose, goal, or even belief that one is contributing to their Meaning OF Life, ensures the flow of money in a way that equals persistence.  According to Steve Jobs, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”  

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” ― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

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