Mid Week Faith Lift
March 12, 2014
The “M-Word”…the Spiritual Energy of Money
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
We are now in week 5 of our journey through Eric Butterworth’s Spiritual Economics and we no doubt have enough mutual trust and respect in our relationship to talk about the “M-Word!” Yes….you heard me right! Money! Prosperity comes with a positive and creative energy toward money. I want to say that again because it is really important. Prosperity comes with a positive and creative energy toward money. What research says is that what we actually worry about the most is money. And when people are randomly asked what makes them happiest, it is money. But when they are asked what makes them unhappiest….it is also money! It is a no win proposition, this money business! It is an uneasy alliance, a “necessary evil” if you will. And I am no exception!
One of the most challenging obstacles for ministers to overcome is to learn to ask you for the financial support that is needed for our community to thrive…it brings up all kinds of “stuff”….like visions of Jimmy Baker and Tammy Faye Baker and Oral Roberts and other TV preachers who strive to wring the last dollar out of the faithful. ICK! Or, it can feel like the annual begging ritual for Public Television and Public Radio….guilt trips anonymous! They got to me for sure!
But the M-Word is something we have to talk about; not comfortable, but Buttherworth says that we will not have true prosperity until we are grounded in the right attitude toward money. It is easy for people to think of themselves as so spiritual that they have no interest or concerns about money. Our good friend Jim Rosmergy debunked that myth with his book Even Mystics Have Bills to Pay.” I confess, I have that book, but I have not yet read it….no issues there of course! Not me!
On the one hand we have the image of the televangelist asking for your last dollar, which conjures up all kinds of negative images ranking right down there with snake oil salesmen and the used car salesperson. Then on the other hand we have those who swear a vow of poverty and preach that money is the root of all evil. Or as Mark Twain put it, “The lack of money is the root of evil.” But neither of those is accurate! What the Scripture actually says in 1 Timothy 6:10 is “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” Sounds like the researchers got to these folks too!
Money is innocent; it is neutral. It is the consciousness in which you use money that matters. And if you take the word evil at its deeper meaning of immature, or unripe, then an immature consciousness about money causes us to act out a lot of our insecurities and anxieties. If we were to reframe this dilemma, then as Butterworth says, “The right attitude toward money is a root of all kinds of prosperity.” So what is the right attitude?
In western culture, especially in the US, we have a confused dualism about money, not unlike our attitude about sex. We surround ourselves with hyper-sexualized images and music, and then say to our young people, “Just say no!” We do the same thing with images about material wealth and money, cultivating a real approach avoidance conflict with it. We are encouraged to strive and compete for excess wealth, all the while fearing what it might mean for us and struggling with mixed feelings about the “haves” and the “have nots.” And look what gets people into the biggest trouble in our culture—the biggest scandals are due to mismanaging money and/or sex! And ministers are not immune to this either!
So how do we cultivate the M-Word ….a MATURE relationship with money? One of my Unity minister colleagues is working in a church back east. They do not own their own building, so they have to rent space each Sunday for church. They are currently going through an assessment by an agency to help the community determine whether they have attained sufficient maturity to be responsible for a mortgage on a church building. They need help to see where they are growing into the maturity to handle this responsibility as a community! It isn’t magical, it is maturity and the ability to be responsible for the debt. Wow, when conditions are sufficient, and there is sufficient maturity, the money will come!
So what does that look like? Jesus had to use money during his ministry. He did not have to maintain a church building and fix the plumbing and arrange for snow removal. But he did have 12 disciples who traveled with him in his ministry and they all had to eat, find lodging and pay the Romans the taxes owed. They had to use money! And my guess is that it did not just magically appear! Jesus had to ask for it, to ask for financial support. And in Luke, there is a direct reference to financial support that Jesus received from a number of women who were also his followers. It is from Luke 8:2-3 and it reads, “The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene……and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward, Chuza, and Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.” (NRSV) Jesus had a benefactor!
Jesus also accepted his fiscal responsibility in that he paid taxes to the Romans. No such thing as Non-profit status to the Romans. When they owed tax money, Jesus directed Peter to go catch and sell some fish to pay their taxes. The reference is a passage that Peter will find a gold coin in the mouth of the fish, which some take to be magical! Not at all! It is an idiomatic expression not unlike those who smell a feedlot and say they just smell money! In reality, the first century Jews hated the Romans and asked Jesus if they were obligated to pay taxes. Jesus took a coin and asked them whose head was on the coin. The response was Caesar, to which Jesus responded, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”
Now, pause for a moment and realize how profoundly mature this instruction from Jesus is! It is about clarity and balance and continually discerning what is of material value and what is of spiritual value and don’t conflate the two! Jesus recognized that we need to use money but we don’t need money, we need God! Our money needs us!
What is money? It can only be defined according to how it is used. Look at that dollar bill that you received when you came into the Sanctuary today. It is a piece of paper with writing and printing on it which only has meaning and worth because of how it is used. And we all agree on how it is used! We all understand that you can actually spend this piece of paper but not a Monopoly Game dollar, right? And that is because money is an enabling symbol that gives rise to faith and trust, credit and cooperation. If you hold the dollar and feel a sense of lack and limitation, “I only have a dollar,” then you are immediately connecting your mind with limitation and lack. Look again at that dollar and see what it really is! Money is good; money is God in action.
Money is good and it needs you to find the full use of it, the full expression of its goodness. So hold that dollar bill and feel the “current” of God’s energy that it symbolizes. We call it currency, a powerfully mature word that makes contact with the flow of the Divine Energy of God. We don’t often handle real money any more; we handle debit and credit cards and checks, which just transfer numbers from one place to another. So look at that dollar bill and notice what it says. On one side it has the black ink and serial numbers and all the legal information and the picture of Washington, our first president. Now turn it over to the green side, green symbolizing growth. And right in the center, it says in all caps, ONE! And above ONE is the powerful affirmation, In God We Trust, a powerful affirmation of faith, a mature understanding of the spiritual energy of money.
The coin Jesus held had only the picture of Caesar, no spiritual reference at all. In our evolution of consciousness, our money has imprinted on it a reminder of God as Source, a reminder of our Oneness with Spirit and each other. Wow, if we look at what the dollar really says, we can truly say Money is Good; Money is God in Action! And we are part of establishing the flow of current throughout the Universe.
Now look at the symbol to the left. It is an unfinished pyramid with 13 steps representing the 13 original colonies and what was called the “Golden Eye of Providence” at the zenith. The words over the top are “Annuit Coeptis” which is Latin that combined with the Golden Eye over the unfinished pyramid means Providence favors our undertakings. God has prospered our endeavors. This was designed by Charles Thomson in 1782 and approved by the initial Congress.
Underneath the pyramid it says, “Novus Ordo Seclorum” meaning the establishment of a new order for the generations or a new order for the ages. It is not a new world order, but a new order for future generations, a new was of Being together as a nation, as one people for generation unto generation. Wow, it can’t get more spiritual than that! Our money needs us to co-create this evolution of consciousness together.
When I as a minister ask you to tithe to support this spiritual community, I am asking you to use your money to co-create this new order of Spirit, not just for us, bur to build on that unfinished pyramid a thriving church community that will be here in Ames, Iowa long after we are gone. Our very own money, our ONE dollar bill invites us to step into that flow! Won’t you join me?
Blessings on the path,