Tis the season for financial focus, including taxes, paying off holiday debt and making good on our New Year's resolutions regarding better financial management. With today's news regarding the CBO's report on the impact of spending cuts and tax increases, we may be looking at interest rates jumping and a slow growth economically. This will mean inflation, but that also signals recovery. In the process of getting our nation's financial house in order there are ancient spiritual guidelines to help our personal finances along, should we choose to seek them out.
Interestingly, we find that while many of the methods used in the U.S. to regulate economic systems come straight out of the Bible, those methods seem to contradict guidelines in our treatment of one another as set forth by the world's spiritual masters.
One example of this is paying interest, an everyday accepted method of earning money on money lent while providing an increased debt and collection to insure that the borrower pays it back.
The Bible's Leviticus 25:36-37 reminds us of how to treat the destitute when they have no means of supporting themselves. “Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you. You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit.”
The Quran states " O ye who believe! Fear God, and give up what remains of your demand for usury, if ye are indeed believers.” Quran Verse 2:278 (Chapter Al-Baqara).
“Moral: Acceptance of Usury discourages people from doing good to one another and lend out of good will. A society which encourages interest on lending will require needy people to pay back more than he borrowed, which quite often is a source of huge burden.
Social: If interest is allowed, the rich (who are most likely to be lender) will exploit the poor (borrower). As a result, the rich becomes richer and the poor becomes poorer. This generates envy and hatred among the poor toward the rich, resulting in social disorders, conflicts and at times breeds revolutions & movements.”
We are admonished to be charitable and not take advantage. Are we living this? Hmmm...strike one.
Regarding charitable giving there are specific laws explained by our ancient teachers that stay with us today, but seem to be misused at times. According to Rabbi Blesofsky in an article written by Aviya Kushner the Torah's best idea is "use what you need for your family -- your mortgage, education and planning for the future -- and the rest should go to charity."
Being charitable is a common thread that runs through the world's religions. Charity and giving differ greatly from tithing, however, and many times the two are blended into one. Tithing is meant as a sort of tax that supports the church or community at large. Charity is strictly a gift of love and support for one in need.
The Bible says in Mark 12:41-44 “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.
2 Corinthians 9:7 tells us, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
We are asked to give from the heart rather than out of duty. Strike two.
And what do we learn about abundance or wealth versus poverty?
Buddha said, “The thought manifests as the word. The word manifests as the deed. The deed develops into habit. And the habit hardens into character. So watch the thought and its ways with care. And let it spring from love, born out of concern for all beings.” -Buddha
If we are to manifest anything in our lives it must come from a place of love. Money is no different. Many spiritual masters offer advice on how to lead an abundant life, but abundance is always a matter of personal perspective. On the subject of money and personal finance, it begins with the perception and grows from there.
We find the words of Jesus from the Nag Hammadi (number 72 in The Gospel of Thomas) humorous in his response to a request, “Tell my siblings to share my father's possessions with me." He [Jesus] said to that person, "My good fellow, who has made me into an arbitrator?" He [Jesus] turned to his disciples and said to them, "So am I an arbitrator?"
Funny as it seems, it is serious in its meaning. When considering abundance we must first let go of any belief in lack or limitation. When we are caught up in the belief that supply is limited or that we cannot experience abundance unless we take someone else's, we are operating out of greed and fear, not love.
Wealth and poverty are truly states of mind. In one nation what is considered wealth may be considered poor and destitute in another. The most basic of spiritual laws hold the answer to a happy, healthy society, but not in the way our modern world would suggest.
In John 10:10 Jesus said, "I come so that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” We assume this to mean all aspects of life, and that Jesus would be a teacher in how to live such a life. Living in a constant state of love and compassion, with the desire to bring others up with you is the only way to live life more abundantly. Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.”
In the Jewish community Tzedakah, or “doing what is right,” means using your prosperity to assist others as needed. This begins at home. Your own financial house must be in order, then those closest to you, then your neighbor, then the community, etc. The laws are specific about making sure your personal finances are straight and you are on a strong foundation prior to helping anyone.
It seems that the lesson is to be responsible at all levels of society, assist those who need it without conditions and eliminate any belief in lack. This will allow us to lead an abundant prosperous life.
Do the right thing without judging or condemning, do not covet what others have since there is always enough to go around and manifest good things from your heart. Are we practicing this one? Strike three.
As we tackle our personal financial duties in the coming months, perhaps we can begin to consider ways to improve our own personal attitudes about money, prosperity, charity and what abundant living actually means. If we are going to pattern our economic system after the spiritually inspired one from our ancestors, shouldn't we also then continue to adopt the guidelines given to us by our spiritual master teachers on how to live harmoniously?