Making And Managing Money
Everything is spiritual all the time, even very earthy things, and nothing illustrates that truth as clearly as money, otherwise known as filthy lucre. Let me explain.
When I was a kid my mother always made me wash my hands after handling money. “You never know where it has been” she would say, and over time I learned what she meant. Money is passed from one person to another (clean hands or not), kept in unhygienic places, even falls on the ground and stays in circulation anywhere from 18 months to several years. During that time it never gets washed. I never really understood how filthy money could be, however, till I moved to South Africa and discovered all the places people hid the stuff to keep it away from thieves. I won’t elaborate. You can imagine.
It isn’t difficult to make a spiritual connection here since cleanliness is next to godliness. Right?
But I also learned from an early age that money can be enticing. From a youthful perspective money is the only thing standing between you and everything you want. It’s like an invisible barrier. You can see and touch the merchandise but without money you can’t have it. It is easy to see how an unemployable youth could easily resort to the five-finger-discount to bridge the gap.
I actually tried that once while toddling behind Mom through the till. The candy rack was eye level and since Mom was too busy to bother I pocketed a plug of tobacco – in my mind a bar of chocolate – and learned all kinds of spiritual lessons when I revealed my acquisition. Mom left an indelible image of spending my entire life behind bars. I never forgot that lesson.
But the learning process wasn’t over. As I grew older I discovered that money can be quite demanding. You don’t choose to use money so you really don’t have the option to earn it or not. You either join the system or you’re on the street. Everyone needs it – meaning “has to have it” – and the only way to get it is earn it.
The primary medium of exchange in today’s value system is money and jobs are what most people do to earn it. How you earn money is where the several lessons are learned.
A job is never just a job. People who do their jobs well earn the business owner profits but rarely get anything more than the agreed wage. A few jobs allow profit sharing but most work-a-days never see the profit and have little or no say in how things are done.
But it doesn’t matter. Wage earners, profit sharing or not, heard or not, are expected to be reliable, dedicated, honest, punctual, sacrificial and more to receive a regular paycheck. Fail in one or more of these areas and you are warned. Fail consistently and you stand a good chance of being fired.
Do you see where this is going? Those are spiritual qualities. A person’s ability to earn money is dependent to some degree on how spiritual they are. Even discovering the right psychological approach to a job can be spiritual.
I got my first job at 13 and it wasn’t easy. I rode a bicycle several miles to a motel. My mother worked there and that’s how I got the job but she worked at different times to me. Hence the reason I rode my bike. I was tired when I got there.
You couldn’t really give the job a fixed description. I did whatever needed doing which usually meant what no one else wanted to do, so I did a little of everything and it was different every day: cut the grass, clean out the cooler, bell hop. I even fixed a TV once. To this day I don’t know what I did to get it to work. My hourly wage was little and I didn’t get paid for the time riding to and from work. It was satisfying to work that hard but soul destroying to get so little for it.
Bottom line? I was diligent enough not to get fired but smart enough to know I didn’t want to work so hard for so little for the rest of my life. I didn’t know what I wanted to do yet but I was discovering what I didn’t want to do. It was spiritual. Realizing there was a difference between where I was and where I could be was a spiritual moment and it was the money not the job that brought me to that moment.
If you, like me, decide at some point that you would like to earn a better salary, possibly own your own business, there are spiritual requirements for that also. Better paying, more fulfilling jobs aren’t handed out at high school graduation. You must qualify, which requires a sense of focus, determination, discipline and hard work, possibly over a long period of time just to get started. It will still take years of sacrificial effort to reach your monetary goals after you qualify.
Of course, there is always the low road. You could agree to the conditions of a decent job and then pilfer your way to a better salary. Or slide your way from one paycheck to the next without doing your fair share. But those are moral issues and that makes it spiritual.
If that isn’t low enough for you there’s another step downward to consider. You could take short cuts and do illegal, immoral or at best unwise things to earn a living.
There are money management issues to consider too.
Again, a job is never just a job. It is a means to an end or should be. What you do with the money you earn determines whether your job is an opportunity or a dungeon. Even less desirable jobs provide a way forward with the right discipline. Saving and investing your way into the future is the smart thing to do. The aim is to work yourself, not out of a job, but out of the need to work. Reaching that goal requires money management discipline and that is a spiritual issue.
The job you choose and how and why you do it involve questions that are effected by your attitude to money. Money is a big part of that discussion and that makes money more than just dirt. It is mundane and spiritual.
We shouldn’t love money but we should love what we do to earn it and respect it once we have it. Make no mistake. Those are spiritual issues.