You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘sufficiency’ tag.

Is Money the Culprit?

Money is complicated. I think most of us have had issues with money at some point in our lives and may have issues now; how to make money, what to do about credit, how to manage money, how to release it, how to be lovingly detached from it, how to keep it from ruling us, how to appreciate it, how to be generous with it. Money can liberate us, free us from anxiety or it can cause anxiety, no matter how much we have. No matter what our relationship is with money, it is a teacher because it taps into our basic security and trust issues.

Money is complicated in scripture too. In Acts the new believers share what they have generously with each other. The Good Samaritan is held up as an example of neighborliness. Jesus shares all of his resources with those he encounters, lives on little and gets refilled by being alone with God. But in scripture people also steal money or withhold it from the community. The rich man who comes to Jesus just cannot part with his wealth when Jesus invites him to give it away. Judas betrays for money. Jesus says that we can gain the whole world and still lose our souls. In the book of Timothy, Paul says that leaders who lust for money bring nothing but trouble, lose their footing and the faith, and live to regret it later.

So is money the culprit? I don’t think so. Money just is. Our relationship with money, God and ourselves determines how money affects us. I’ve found that when I am vulnerable in my life, like during a major transition or in a time of crisis, money takes on more significance, because I am dealing with basic issues of safety and security, the bottom rungs on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Several years ago I was faced with one of those turning point times in life. I was single, no longer able to travel and do public speaking for a living because of the stress to my system, and wondering about my future. Where would I live, how would I earn a living, who was I called to be. I shared my journey with my spiritual director, therapist, friends and financial counselor. I cited my level of anxiety about money as a score of 93 out of 100. It was an almost constant source of fear and insecurity. It took me several years to learn (and I am still learning) that money is none of the things I had mistaken it for. It is not love or health or security or peace or wisdom or inner power or faith or generosity. I do think money helps to supply my basic safety, security and sustenance needs, so I am not naïve about money, but money itself is not powerful. It is what we do or buy with money that give us power in our culture.

I’ve learned my most important lessons about money from three different sources. The first source of insight about money and resources is marginalized people; refugees, homeless people and prison inmates. In the midst of dire straits, many of them exude a surprising perspective of gratitude, generosity, sufficiency and trust. When I have been able to put my fear aside in favor of those qualities, I find a new spirit within me.

The second source of wisdom for me is my financial counselor who had helped me to be a wise steward of whatever resources I have, and has worked with me  for years to be mindful of how I think about money. During my time of unease and anxiety about money he asked me to choose my top values in life and then suggested that we make decisions about my finances based on my values. He asked for my permission to remind me of those values if I was going off in a direction of fear or uncertainty. My core values are spirituality, integrity, friendship, creativity, diversity and generosity. These values guide my decision making like a north star.

The third and most important source of wisdom about money is God. God is the one who has made money a spiritual issue for me. God teaches me not to panic but to wait, listen and trust. God has helped me to follow my heart in my work instead of only going towards the most money. In fact, in a financial fox-hole time of my life twenty-five years ago, I made a request of God. I promised to do whatever God called me to do each day and in response I asked God to provide for me financially.  God’s response: “My dear, I already have.” God’s part of that request has always been secure. It’s my part that wavers at times. But when I keep coming back to God’s promise, and when I can bring my fears and anxieties to God, I can see the path and the grace much more clearly. I don’t always get more money but I learn to live more simply, to let go of what I thought I needed to be happy, and receive from God’s largess at unexpected times and in unexpected ways. I have learned that gratitude sparks generosity. Sometimes when I get an unexpected check in the mail, God asks me to give half of it away. I do.

God also uses my finances to teach me about anger, fear, jealously and greed in my life. I’ve gone into business for the sake of money and security, used money to buy love through expensive gifts, and used money to fuel status and greed. Not pretty. I’ve seen people move to a different state thousands of miles away for the tax breaks, even though they are not happy there. I’ve seen people control children by taking them out of their wills or by giving them too much. I’ve seen expensive travel take up so much time that friendships were lost. Most all of our wounds show themselves through our use of and relationship with money.

This is what I’ve found out about money. My life is richer with less. Money is not love. Gratitude counts. Generosity frees me. Receiving is as important as giving. Self-sufficiency is not powerful. I can’t out-give God. And God, not money, is my source of love, trust, gratitude, security and contentment.

My anxiety level, which was at 93, is now below 5 even though my finances may be less secure. But what has changed is my trust. Thanks be to God.

© Janet O. Hagberg, 2010. All rights reserved.

Reflections on this essay

What does money mean for you?

Which scripture stories about money most resonate for you?

How have you changed your relationship with money?

Who in your life sees money differently than you do and challenges you?

How is money a spiritual thing in your life and where is God in your finances?

How have you misused money?

What healing do you desire around the issue of money?

Gaining Wisdom From a Grocery Bag

It’s kind of embarrassing for me to admit that I learn some of my best lessons from the most trivial experiences. But I find that what I learn from the trivial experiences symbolizes larger issues in my life. Take the grocery bag issue, for instance.

I was driving my friend, Harriet, to the pizza place and then on to the grocery store and it triggered the memory that two weeks ago, when I had picked up a few extra things for her, I had forgotten to take back my new cloth grocery bag (environmentally friendly and politically correct). I casually commented that I needed to get that bag back so I could avoid using paper and plastic. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I felt uncomfortable and I wasn’t quite sure why. All the way to the pizza place I reflected on it and then I said to Harriet, “Cancel what I said about the bag. You can keep the bag and I can get both of us another bag when we go grocery shopping.”

In those few minutes I had processed a lot of things. First, I reflected on my discomfort about getting my bag back. It came from the feeling that I needed that bag. It represented something missing from my stuff if I didn’t get it back–it was mine and someone else had it. I was keeping track of my stuff, like people track books or money they lend. I might even be diminished in some way if I didn’t get it back. No thought to how it would be if I willingly gave it up!

If I go a little deeper, I can feel that this clinging to my stuff, even the most trivial stuff, is really a sign of my scarcity mentality. It goes like this, “If I don’t get that bag back, I may be in need and not have enough. At some point there may not be enough stuff (insert the word food or jobs or money or whatever) to go around and I may have to go without and then I will be really scared.” None of this is at the conscious level, of course, which is why my clinging to my bag is sort of funny. Clinging to a grocery bag, which costs a dollar, as if it was a source of security! But this mentality also shows up in bigger things, like my time, my willingness to listen to others who differ from me, my willingness to have a smaller and simpler life style.

My friend, Harriet, who is from Uganda and has a powerful story of fleeing the country to come to America as a refugee, is generous with all of her things and gives me food and love all the time. She has almost nothing yet she is usually grateful and willing to share. I am learning from her that it is not about what I have, it is about what I’m willing to share, believing that I will be just fine. What Harriet would say, about giving the grocery bag to someone, is “God will provide.” And she would mean it, because she has experienced it so many times in her crisis-ridden life.

The scarcity life is not healthy for me but neither is the opposite, the abundance mentality, whereby if I just visualize what I want I can get it. This feeds my wants and desires without ever checking to see if God has anything to say about whether those things would actually be good for me. I find this approach feeds my power and ego more than is healthy for me and often leads me to ask for things to fill my emptiness rather than to look at the emptiness to see what it teaches me. It’s not that I don’t deserve abundance, but I’m choosing, instead, to trust in God to be my source of security and fulfillment. And if I really look underneath my desire for abundance, I find that my fear of not having enough is just as present there.

So what is the option that makes more sense? If fear underlies my sense of scarcity and abundance, how can I find a spirit of having enough? I can move to a place of sufficiency. Sufficiency is neither scarcity nor abundance. It is enoughness. It is satisfaction with what I already have and gratefulness for what I will receive without clinging to either. It encourages me to live on a sort of edge where I can’t count on a whole storage bin full of what I want, but to live as if I will always have what I need. It requires trust and dependence on the Holy and on divine providence, not on my own will and power. It is simultaneously scary and awesome. It is sacred space.

When the Israelites fled Egypt and were moving slowly through the wilderness, they complained that they did not have enough food. Moses asked God about this and God provided a daily meal, called manna, to every household. If they stored it and didn’t eat it, out of fear that they would not have enough, it rotted. If they ate too much, they did not have enough to feed everyone. So each day they had to trust that God would provide more manna. This required courage, to go out each day to collect the manna that appeared on their doorstep.

I gave my grocery bag to Harriet with a glad heart. We even laughed about it. But now I think of my dilemma with the grocery bag as a manna story. It reminds me that I didn’t trust God’s manna. So when I think of manna it is easier to hold all of my stuff lightly.

If you want to have an experiential understanding of clinging to your stuff, try giving away your very favorite thing or the thing you thought you could never part with, and see what it stirs in you. Think of manna and see if you feel any more freedom after you release your favorite thing.

©Janet O. Hagberg, 2009. All rights reserved.

Reflections on this essay
When have you had a sudden awareness that things may need to change or be different, a “grocery bag” experience? What was it? How did it change you?

When have you felt scarcity or lived out of a scarcity mentality? How does it affect you and your relationship with others?

When have you experienced abundance? How did this affect you and your relationship with others? Was it spiritual abundance or some other kind?

When have you experienced sufficiency? How does it affect your heart and your stance towards God, yourself, others?

Would you be willing to give away one of your favorite belongings and see how things shift in you? Why or why not? What reasons do you give for keeping your things? Can you see this as humorous?

Subscribe for Email Updates