As the Center for Action and Contemplation’s founder Fr. Richard Rohr has said many times, the most important word in our title is neither action nor contemplation, but the word and. This month our We Conspire series explores the opportunities and challenges the and presents in our own lives.
How do you create more loving relationships with money? Jon Hokama, third-generation Japanese American and associate director of finance and fund development with Wisdom and Money, invites us to reflect on how we can weave our service to God and attention to money in a holy fabric of nondual sight.
Kintsugi Wisdom on God & Money
Consider this well-known verse from the Sermon on the Mount: “You cannot serve both God and money.” [BS1] We might wonder: do we find Jesus articulating an “and” that does not work? Is Jesus impaling us on both horns of this dilemma?
Jesus’ words are clear, stark, and troubling. His “and” highlights two questions I’ve spent a lifetime living into: “Can I serve God wholeheartedly?” And “Will my needed attention to money preclude that?”
I’d like to share how the Japanese art of kintsugi might gift us all with greater “eye health” (non-dual sight) to live with the “and” of this dilemma.
“You cannot serve both God and money.”
— Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 6:24)
The Art of Kintsugi
Kintsugi is an ancient Japanese art form to repair broken pottery pieces, bringing the pieces to restored wholeness. The artist employs a gold lacquer to transform broken pieces into a treasured work of art. Artist Charlotte Bailey takes this technique a step farther: she covers each broken piece with fabric and then uses embroidery to sew the pieces into a singular whole.
“What I now see are the golden threads holding together the apparent contradiction of serving God and money. Jesus was right: you cannot serve both.”
— Jon Hokama
Our History as a New Lens
With gratitude to Fr. Richard Rohr, the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) and the Living School, my “eye health” (non-dual sight) has improved (Matthew 6:20)! Like Bailey’s transformed vase, I am seeing and experiencing a single golden-embroidered vase through reflection on my Japanese American family’s journey and the impact of my parents’ lives on my own journey with God and money.
I now see clearly the golden threads transforming the broken pottery pieces of my parents’ poverty and racial adversity. My dear church-organist mother was a child when her Japanese immigrant family had everything taken away and were interned in the Mohave Desert during WW2.
I now see how her losses were transformed into fastidious attention to tracking, recording, and guiding the expenditure of every dollar to provide our family a golden threaded kintsugi experience of “more than enough.”
“The lens we bring to our daily life and work is the one where God is subordinate to money. But what if we could subordinate money to God?”
— Jon Hokama
My medical school professor dad grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii where his family worked the sugar cane plantations. After WW2 he earned his PhD and then hit the glass ceiling of prejudice against Japanese. He moved our family back to Hawaii where he flourished, investing his life in medical research and mentoring Asian and Pacific Island medical students.
Following the Golden Threads
What I now see are the golden threads holding together the apparent contradiction of serving God and money. Jesus was right: you cannot serve both. You will subordinate one to the other. The lens we bring to our daily life and work is the one where God is subordinate to money. But what if we could subordinate money to God?
I had my own golden kintsugi experience that sewed pieces of my life into that single vase. On January 1, 2022, I joined the staff of Wisdom and Money — and on that day, I found a paycheck already in my checking account!
“In that moment I experienced moving from the money-first transactional world to God first. I had sight into the experience of money as subordinate to God!”
— Jon Hokama
In that moment I experienced the grace of moving from the money-first transactional world to indwelling the God-first “Living in Gift” world. Instead of giving hours first for dollars later, I experienced the relational flow of receiving dollars first for gifting hours later (Matthew 6:30,33). I had the transformational money experience receiving new sight in the experience of money as subordinate to God!
Rather than fixating on the spot price of gold today, may we pay attention first to whatever golden kintsugi threads are holding together the ceramic pots of our life and our world!
Reflect With Us
What threads will you weave to hold your relationships with God and with money in a nondual stance? Share your reflection with us.
Jon Hokama is a third-generation Japanese American, the son of an Episcopal church organist and medical school professor. He serves as an online teaching assistant for the Center for Action and Contemplation and as associate director of finance and fund development with Wisdom and Money. Jon and his wife Susan have a ministry of hospitality and love the mountains, trees and the ocean. They are current students in the Living School (2023) and have four adult children, their partners, and four grandchildren. Jon plays cello, earned graduate degrees from Denver Seminary and the University of Colorado Boulder (economics) and is a retired EPC campus pastor.
We Conspire is a series from the Center for Action and Contemplation featuring wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Sign up for the monthly email series and receive a free invitation to practice each month.