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What Do We Do With Money?
What Do We Do With Money?

Money and Soul

Sunday, September 19, 2021

What Do We Do With Money?

Money and Soul
Sunday, September 19, 2021

In this week’s meditations, we are delighted to share some of Fr. Richard Rohr’s unpublished notes about money. As a Franciscan dedicated to simple living and the Gospel call to solidarity with the marginalized, Richard sees an opportunity for each of us to rediscover a “soulful” relationship with money.

I’m convinced that money and soul are united on a deep level. This truth is reappearing from the deep stream of wisdom traditions after centuries of almost total splitting and separation at the conscious level. [1] There is un río profundo, a river beneath the river. The upper stream has always been money in all its forms, beginning with trading and bartering. The deeper stream is the spiritual meaning such exchanges must have for our lives. Money and soul have never been separate in our unconscious because they are both about human exchanges, and therefore, divine exchange, too.

Notice how much religion uses the language of commerce, such as gaining heaven, acquiring merit, doing penance, earning salvation, losing one’s soul, and deserving hell. Of course, there is also the notion of “penal substitutionary atonement” itself, with Jesus “paying the debt” for our sins. On the other side, commerce uses the metaphors of religion far more than it realizes: we purchase bonds and trusts, enter into covenants, forgive debts, are granted grace periods for repayment, enjoy indemnity, reconcile accounts, and redeem coupons!

From my perspective, when money and soul are separated, religion is the major loser. Without a vision of wholeness that puts money in its soulful place, religion “sells out.” Religion allowed itself to lose the only ground on which awe and transcendence stand—the foundation of totally gratuitous and “amazing grace.” We traded it for a “mess of pottage” (see Genesis 25:27–34), a secretly enthroned ego that only knows how to count, weigh, measure, dole out, judge, label, earn, expel, and compete. No wonder Jesus’ direct action in the Temple that exposed the idolatrous game got him killed within a week! All four Gospels in some form speak of “turning over the tables” of buying and selling. [2] Even with this forceful gospel teaching, our faith became transactional instead of transformational, calculating instead of consoling.

Lynne Twist, founder of the Soul of Money Institute, understands the impact that our culture’s disintegrated view of money has made and invites us to the spiritual practice of bringing the two—money and our souls—together in our lives:

In a world that seems to revolve around money, it is vital that we deepen our relationship with our soul and bring it to bear on our relationship with money. In that merger and that commitment, we can create a new and profound spiritual practice. We can have our money culture both balanced and nourished by soul. Our relationship with money can become a place where, day in and day out, we can engage in this meaningful spiritual practice. [3]

[1] This astounding truth is being discovered and communicated by a series of teachers and enlightened economists today. Check out names like Charles Eisenstein, Stephen Jenkinson, Jacob Needleman and Doug Lynam, to name just a few.

[3] Lynne Twist with Teresa Barker, The Soul of Money: Reclaiming the Wealth of Our Inner Resources (W. W. Norton: 2006, 2017), 19–20.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, What Do We Do with Money?, unpublished notes, 2020.

Story from Our Community:
I was raised poor in Newark, New Jersey, in the 1950s. Society held me down for years. . . until I listened to God, went to college (at night while working), and became a teacher and college professor. I refused to be labeled a failure by those whose only power comes from money. This power is not lasting. Who you are, who I am is eternal; this is the true power that only God can bestow. —Russell C.

Image credit: Raul Diaz, Lamp Posts (detail), 2012, photograph, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Image inspiration: Identical lampposts are all in an ordered, symmetrical row, like a factory output of goods for our uncontrolled consumption. Both money and spirituality are tools, neither good nor bad. If they become weapons for manipulation, they have the potential to harm deeply.
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