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What Do We Do With Money?

What Do We Do With Money?

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Week Thirty-Eight Summary and Practice

Sunday, September 19—Friday, September 24, 2021

Sunday
Money and soul have never been separate in our unconscious because they are both about human exchanges, and therefore, divine exchange. —Richard Rohr

Monday
The reign of God is a worldview of abundance. God lifts us up from a worldview of scarcity to infinity. —Richard Rohr

Tuesday
I believe personal evil is committed rather freely because it is derived from and legitimated by our underlying, unspoken agreement that certain evils are necessary for the common good. —Richard Rohr

Wednesday
Money becomes evil when rights are not balanced by responsibilities, and responsibilities are not balanced by rights. When these are balanced, money can do a great deal of good—both for the giver and the receiver, and hopefully for others. —Richard Rohr

Thursday
We don’t “deserve” anything, anything! It’s all a gift. To understand the Gospel in its radical, transformative power, we have to stop counting, measuring, and weighing. —Richard Rohr

Friday
Could the crazy notion of self-emptying, a notion found in different forms in many religious traditions, be a clue to what is wrong with our way of being in the world as well as a suggestion of how we might live differently? —Sallie McFague

 

Letting Go of Things

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. —Matthew 6:19–21

Minister Adele Ahlberg Calhoun believes that by simplifying our lives, we bring ourselves into greater alignment with God’s will.

Jesus wants us to know that we don’t need all the things or experiences we think we do. What we really need is to keep first things first—Jesus and his kingdom. Life becomes much more simple when one thing matters most. . . .

Simplicity creates margins and spaces and openness in our lives. It honors the resources of our small planet. It offers us the leisure of tasting the present moment. Simplicity asks us to let go of the tangle of wants so we can receive the simple gifts of life that cannot be taken away. Sleeping, eating, walking, giving and receiving love. . . . Simplicity invites us into these daily pleasures that can open us to God, who is present in them all.

Aging has always been about simplifying and letting go. Sooner or later we realize that we can’t manage all the stuff and activity anymore. We have to let go. The practice of letting go and embracing simplicity is one way we prepare ourselves for what is to come. One day we all will have to let go of everything—even our own breath. It will be a day of utter simplicity—a day when the importance of stuff fades. Learning to live simply prepares us for our last breath while cultivating in us the freedom to truly live here and now.

Here are some of the practices for simplifying Calhoun suggests:

  • Uncomplicate your life by choosing a few areas in which you wish to practice “letting go.” Clean out the garage, basement, closet or attic. Go on a simple vacation. Eat more simply. . . .
  • Intentionally limit your choices. Do you need six different kinds of breakfast cereal, hundreds of TV channels or four tennis rackets? What is it like to limit your choices? Does it feel free, or do want and envy surface? Talk to God about this.
  • If someone admires something of yours, give it away. Find out just how attached you are to your things. . . .
  • Make a catalog of all the gadgets you have in your home, from the dishwasher to the lawnmower. Which gadgets have made you freer? Which could you share? Which could you get rid of and not really miss?
  • Where have you complicated your life with God? Consider what actually brings you into the presence of Christ. Spend time there.

Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.

Reference:
Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us (InterVarsity Press: 2005), 75–76.

To learn about how CAC seeks to align financial practices with Fr. Richard’s teachings on money, read this article by Cindy Kroll, the Center’s Managing Director of Finance and Business Analytics.

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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What Do We Do With Money?

Curbing Our Appetites
Friday, September 24, 2021

Sallie McFague (1933–2019) was a renowned scholar in the theological disciplines of ecology, economics, and feminist Christianity. In her book Blessed Are the Consumers, she calls consumerism “the most successful religion on the planet” with catastrophic results for humanity and our planet. However, she also suggests a way forward.

I have been struck by . . . the rather shocking practice of self-emptying, of what the Christian tradition has called “kenosis” [see Philippians 2:5–8]. . . . I believe it suggests an ethic for our time, a time that is characterized by climate change and financial chaos. These two related crises are the result of excess, our insatiable appetites that are literally consuming the world. . . . We are living way beyond our means at all levels: our personal credit cards, the practices of the financial lending institutions, and the planet’s resources that support all of us.

Could the crazy notion of self-emptying, a notion found in different forms in many religious traditions, be a clue to what is wrong with our way of being in the world as well as a suggestion of how we might live differently? . . .

As Fr. Richard mentioned in Wednesday’s meditation, when money controls every aspect of our lives, it is extremely difficult to find our moral compass. That’s why the practices of simplicity, solidarity, and community that are embodied by people such as Quaker John Woolman (17201772) are so important. They show us that it is possible to live an alternative to the dominant culture. McFague continues:

I am thinking of John Woolman, an eighteenth-century American Quaker who had a successful retail business and gave it up because he felt it kept him from clearly seeing something that disturbed him: slavery. He came to see how money stood in the way of clear perception of injustice: people who had a lot of property and land needed slaves to maintain them (or so these folks reasoned). He saw the same problem with his own reasoning. . . whenever he looked at an injustice in the world he always saw it through his own eye, his own situation and benefit. . . . Once he reduced his own level of prosperity, he could see the clear links between riches and oppression. He wrote: “Every degree of luxury has some connection with evil.” [1] Reduction of his lifestyle gave him insight into the difference between “needs” and “wants,” something our insatiable consumer culture has made it almost impossible to recognize. . . .

To empty the self is not an act of denial, but of fulfillment, for it creates space for God to fill one’s being. We are satisfied by nothing less than God; our deepest desire is to be one with God, even as Jesus was. Made in the image of God, our destiny is to become one with God, so that we too can say, not my will but God’s be done. This is not a loss, but again, the greatest gain.

References:
[1] John Woolman, The Journal of John Woolman, and A Plea for the Poor (Corinth Books: 1961), 43.

Sallie McFague, Blessed Are the Consumers: Climate Change and the Practice of Restraint (Fortress Press: 2013), 6, 7.

Story from Our Community:
As a single parent and survivor of domestic abuse, God’s gracious provision and constant renewal have transformed and strengthened my self-concept, re-wiring my old connections that said I was not smart enough, strong enough, or good enough. Throughout my day I stand inside Love, noting that I am seen and known and that in Christ, I am enough. —Amy R.

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.
Read Full Entry

What Do We Do With Money?

It’s All a Gift
Thursday, September 23, 2021

Jesus said to the host who had invited him, “When you hold a lunch or dinner . . . invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; and blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.” —Luke 14:12–14

Inspired by the above exchange in the Gospel of Luke, Richard explores the economy of grace in which Jesus, and therefore God, desires us to live.

I’d like to contrast two economies or worldviews. The first economy is capitalism, which is based on quid pro quo, reward and punishment, and justice as retribution. This much product requires this much payment. It soon becomes the framework for our fundamental relationships, our basic self-image, and actions (“I deserve”; “You owe me”; “I will be generous if it helps me, too”), and constructs a faulty foundation for our relationship with the Divine.

We’ve got to admit that this system of exchange seems reasonable to almost everybody today. If we’re honest, it makes sense to us, too, and seems fair. I’m not going to say it’s wrong—it does much good. The only trouble is, Jesus doesn’t believe it at all, and he’s supposed to be our spiritual teacher.

Let’s contrast this “meritocracy,” the punishment/reward economy of basic capitalism, with what Jesus presents. I’m going to call it a gift economy. [1] In a gift economy, there is no equivalence between what we give and how much we get. We don’t really like this model, because we feel we’ve worked hard to get to our rightful social positions. We feel we have earned our rights.

Yet if we call ourselves Christians, we have to deal with the actual Gospel. The only way we can make the great turnaround and understand this is if we’ve had at least one experience of being given to without earning. It’s called forgiveness, unconditional love, and mercy. If we’ve never received unearned, undeserved love, we will stay in the capitalist worldview where 2 + 2 = 4. I put in my 2, I get my 2 back. But we remain very unsure, if not angry, about anything “free,” whether it is free health care (physical, mental, or spiritual) or even free education. These benefits can be seen as natural human rights that sustain peoples’ humanity and dignity, as papal social encyclicals make clear. All too often, though, we only want people in our own group to benefit from health care, education, and bail outs.

We don’t “deserve” anything, anything! It’s all a gift. Until we have begun to live in the kingdom of God, instead of the kingdoms of this world, we will think exactly like the world. To understand the Gospel in its radical, transformative power, we have to stop counting, measuring, and weighing. We have to stop saying “I deserve” and deciding who does not deserve. None of us deserves! This daily conversion is hard to do unless we’ve experienced infinite mercy and realized that it’s all a gift—all the time.

References:
[1] “A gift economy, gift culture, or gift exchange is a mode of exchange where valuables are not traded or sold, but rather given without an explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards. This contrasts with a barter economy or a market economy, where goods and services are primarily exchanged for value received. Social norms and customs govern gift exchange.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gift_economy.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Capitalist Economy and Gift Economy,” homily, September 1, 2019.

Story from Our Community:
As a single parent and survivor of domestic abuse, God’s gracious provision and constant renewal have transformed and strengthened my self-concept, re-wiring my old connections that said I was not smart enough, strong enough, or good enough. Throughout my day I stand inside Love, noting that I am seen and known and that in Christ, I am enough. —Amy R.

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.
Read Full Entry

What Do We Do With Money?

Rights and Responsibilities
Wednesday, September 22, 2021

In his unpublished notes on money, Fr. Richard explores a parable that has often troubled faithful Christians, including pastors, theologians, and scripture scholars alike.

Maybe the key to an honest Jesus hermeneutic around money has been lost in a parable that many of us never liked—the parable of the ten gold coins (Luke 19:11–27). Let me offer you a different slant on this story that, in my experience, few preachers have addressed:

A nobleman pays his staff equally well beforehand, and then upon leaving, says to them: “Do business with this while I am away!” (Luke 19:13). He leaves the country, freeing the servants from any pressure or duress. For anything to be a virtue, it must be a free choice, not just a mandate. Most of us were never taught that psychological truth! Jesus’ words must be seen as descriptive (what is possible) much more than prescriptive (what must be done). He is always describing and thus inviting his listeners into a big, inclusive life of love, which he calls the Reign of God. No language of counting or commanding can get you there.

The nobleman is telling his servants to do something with the money: “Yes, I am paying you well, but do something with it!” It is the one servant who refuses to do any business with the money who is deemed fully at fault. He loses what he stashed away in fear (Luke 19:20–21). He claims his right to the money but shows no responsibility for putting it to use.

This always-bothersome text has finally become more clear to me: money becomes evil when rights are not balanced by responsibilities, and responsibilities are not balanced by rights. When these are balanced, money can do a great deal of good—both for the giver and the receiver, and hopefully for others. There’s surely nothing bad about that!

This interpretation keeps us from wrongly framing the issue, as so many have done in history—by making the rich or the poor inherently bad or inherently virtuous. Individuals in both economic groups can be materialistic consumers or generous-hearted givers, just at their own scale. Paul never said money is the root of all evil, as he is often quoted to have said. He says, “the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Timothy 6:10). This is a major difference.

When, at the individual or family level, we balance our rights with our responsibilities, money can be a moral good for all concerned. A corporation acts morally when it balances its rights to a just profit with its responsibilities for the common good—upon which it depends and profits. Most Western individualism refuses to recognize this common domain. Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Kentucky were wise to name themselves “commonwealths” instead of states, although now it has just become an empty word. When a person, a community, or a corporation does not consistently seek this balance, they no longer work for the common good. This can become a web of deceits that benefits the very few. When the dominance and enthrallment of money controls almost every aspect of life, as we largely see today, it has become a demon, beyond moral control. Today, this “demon” is destroying the common good and even “our common home,” as Pope Francis calls the planet.

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

Story from Our Community:
In 2000 I formed a nonprofit food bank and thrift store where nothing is priced; people pay what they can. If a person needs a coat and has no money, they pay nothing. Money and services are freely given and money is always there when needed. Through all of this, God gave me the strength to never deviate from our original mission—we operate the way Jesus would have us: to give without judgment. —Mary K.

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.
Read Full Entry

What Do We Do With Money?

The Power of Money
Tuesday, September 21, 2021

In 2019, Richard wrote a short book entitled What Do We Do with Evil? In it, he explored the apostle Paul’s teachings on “the world, the flesh, and the devil,” to clarify the often invisible, systemic, and hidden nature of evil, including systems of money.

For most of history we believed that evil was almost exclusively the result of “bad people” and that it was our job to make them into good people. We thought this alone would change the world. And sometimes it worked! Yet only in the 20th century did popes and many moral theologians begin to teach about corporate sin, institutionalized evil, systemic violence, and structural racism. These very words are new to most people, especially ones who benefit from such illusions.

I believe personal evil is committed rather freely because it is derived from and legitimated by our underlying, unspoken agreement that certain evils are necessary for the common good. Let’s call this systemic evil. However, if we would be honest, this leaves us very conflicted. We call war “good and necessary,” but murder bad. National or corporate pride is expected, but personal vanity is bad. Capitalism is rewarded, but personal gluttony or greed is bad (or, at least, it used to be). Lying and cover-ups are considered acceptable to protect powerful systems (the church, political groups, governments), but individuals should not tell lies.

Thus we now find ourselves unable to recognize or defeat the tyranny of evil at the most invisible, institutionalized, and entrenched level. Evil at this stage has become not only pleasing to us but idealized, romanticized, and even “too big to fail.” This is what I call “the devil” and Paul calls “the thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers” (Colossians 1:16) or “spirits of the air” (Ephesians 6:12). These were his premodern words for corporations, institutions, and nation states. Anything that is deemed above criticism and hidden in the spirit of the age will in time—usually in a rather short time—always become demonic.

As regards money and evil, money’s meaning and use is highly obfuscated by small print and obscure vocabularies which only highly-trained economists can understand: annuities, interest (“usury” used to be a major sin!), non-fiduciary, reverse mortgages, and more. Yes, the devil is in the details! The ordinary person is left at the mercy of these new clerics who alone understand how we can be “saved” by the “infallible laws of the market” and the “bottom line” of everything. They use the language of religion and transcendence to speak with a kind of assumed objectivity that we once only allowed in the realm of theology and from the pulpit.

Letting the domination systems of “the world” off the hook, we put almost all our moral concern on greedy or ambitious individuals. We tried to change them without recognizing that each isolated individual was on bended knee before the powers and principalities of the market and more. In most nations today, our moral compass has been thrown off its foundations.

References:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, What Do We Do with Evil? (CAC Publishing: 2019), 48–51; and

What Do We Do with Money?, unpublished notes, 2020.

Story from Our Community:
In 2000 I formed a nonprofit food bank and thrift store where nothing is priced; people pay what they can. If a person needs a coat and has no money, they pay nothing. Money and services are freely given and money is always there when needed. Through all of this, God gave me the strength to never deviate from our original mission—we operate the way Jesus would have us: to give without judgment. —Mary K.

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.
Read Full Entry

What Do We Do With Money?

We Cannot Serve Two Masters
Monday, September 20, 2021

Fr. Richard continues his reflections on money by considering one of Jesus’ most challenging statements.

Many of us, myself included, have a confused, guilt-ridden, obsessive attitude about money. There’s hardly anybody who can think in a clear-headed way about it. At the end of Luke’s parable of the so-called dishonest steward, Jesus creates a clear dualism between God and wealth, or what he calls “mammon”: “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13). Mammon was the god of wealth, money, superficiality, and success. Jesus says, in effect, “You’ve finally got to make a choice.” Most of Jesus’ teaching is what I call nondual—a theme I often teach—but there are a few areas where he’s absolutely dualistic (either-or), and it’s usually anything having to do with power and anything having to do with money.

Jesus is absolute about money and power because he knows what we’re going to do. Most of us will serve this god called mammon. Luke’s Gospel even describes mammon as a type of illness, as Jesuit John Haughey (1930–2019) explained: “Mammon is not simply a neutral term in Luke. It is not simply money. It connotes disorder. . . . Mammon becomes then a source of disorder because people allow it to make a claim on them that only God can make.” [1] “Mammon illness” takes over when we think all of life is counting, weighing, measuring, and deserving. We go to places that have sales, so that we don’t have to give as much to get the same thing. My mother spent much of her time cutting coupons to save ten cents. It was good and even necessary for a while, I guess, but it’s very hard to get rid of that fixation.

To participate in the reign of God, we have to stop counting. We have to stop weighing, measuring, and deserving in order to let the flow of forgiveness and love flow through us. The love of God can’t be doled out by any process whatsoever. We can’t earn it. We can’t lose it. As long as we stay in this world of earning and losing, we’ll live in perpetual resentment, envy, or climbing.

Religion cannot work from a calculator without losing its very method, mind, foundation, and source. Surely this is what Jesus meant by his statement in Luke’s Gospel. Perhaps if we say it a bit differently, we can all get the point: “You cannot move around inside the world of Infinite Grace and Mercy, and at the same time be counting and measuring with your overly defensive and finite little mind.” It would be like asking an ant to map the galaxies. St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873–1897) put it much more directly to a nun worried about God keeping track of her many failings: “There is a science about which [God] knows nothing—addition!” [2] The reign of God is a worldview of abundance. God lifts us up from a worldview of scarcity to infinity. Remember every part of infinity is still infinite! God’s love is nothing less than infinite.

References:
[1] John C. Haughey, The Holy Use of Money: Personal Finance in Light of Christian Faith (Doubleday and Company: 1986), 11.

[2] Sœur Thérèse of Lisieux: The Little Flower of Jesus, ed. T. N. Taylor (Burns and Oates, Ltd.: 1912), 241. This early translation of Thérèse’s autobiography, The Story of a Soul, includes “Counsels and Reminiscences,” a chapter not part of recent editions.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Money,” homily, September 22, 2019; and

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.
Read Full Entry

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]

References:
[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.
Read Full Entry
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