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Money as a Proxy for the Gifts of Spirit

Between a Christian distrust of wealth and witnessing massive contemporary greed, it’s no wonder we react to money in emotional and dissonant ways. Matthew 19:24 says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. One interpretation is that “the eye of the needle” referred to the narrow “needle gates” that led out of town; a camel could go through, but only if it were unloaded. Is the point that money is evil and one can’t enter heaven, even on Earth, if one has wealth, or is the point that money, being essential to all, must be shared in order to enter heaven? Timothy 1 echos:

7 For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
10 For the love of money is the root of all evil, which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.
1 Tim. 6:7–11

The Bible presents money as dangerous for the soul and leaves a feeling of disdain and distrust for money—the sense of a necessary evil that plagues us each day. But again, is the point that money itself is the temptress that one should turn away from or that worshiping or coveting money is what destroys our soul?

Quakerism, however, reclaims our experience of a Living Spirit and our direct relationship with Spirit in all life. “Quakerism, as a way of life, emphasizes hard work, simple living and generous giving; personal integrity, social justice and the peaceful settlement of disputes” (Swarthmore College Bulletin, 1973). An inward focus on Spirit simplifies our outward lives, personally and corporately. To live in the Power of the Presence and be available when called, we use what we need, live within our means, settle our debts promptly, and plan for the care of the young, sick, elderly, and those called to service. As stewards, not owners, we use what we need and pass on the rest for the needs of others. Seeking clearness and discernment with others committed to faithfulness should guide our personal financial planning, management, and giving.

I have greatly simplified my relationship to money by understanding it as a proxy for the gifts of Spirit. Certain gifts are pure gifts of God: time, talent, health, and natural resources. We exchange these gifts for money. Money is just a proxy for gifts of Spirit. In this understanding, spending money is sacramental. As I say a grace before my meal, I say a grace when I purchase or consume something. I acknowledge it as from the Spirit and am grateful for it. I find much more joy in that which I do have or use and I find I spend less money. The money accumulates and I am glad for the opportunity to invest in the many needs of others in the world. This sensibility of money changes my feelings. I do not feel money is “Mine, all mine, mine, mine.” I use what I need and pass the rest on to others. I expect money, my own and others’, to be used with integrity in accord with its nature and in so knowing am saved from the temptation to seek or worship it in and of itself.

Nadine Hoover, a member of Alfred (N.Y.) Meeting, travels under a minute from New York Yearly Meeting, ministering to Friends in the United States and to people in tsunami-and war-torn Aceh, Indonesia.

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