Money as Sacred
by Nadine Hoover
Between a Christian distrust of wealth and witnessing massive, commercial greed, it is 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 of this is that the Needle Gate out of town was very narrow; a camel could go through, but only if it unloaded all its excess baggage. 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 is essential to all and one can’t enter heaven without the redistribution of wealth? Timothy 1 echoes:
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
It is clear that money is dangerous for the soul. But again, is the point that money is the temptress and one should turn away from it completely or is the point that worshipping money (wealth or poverty) rather than the Spirit misguides and destroys us? However we explore these subtleties, these biblical messages leave a feeling of the disdain, distrust, and dirtiness about money-the sense of a necessary evil that plagues us each day.
Quakerism, however, reclaims our experience of a Living Spirit and our direct relationship with it 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). A simple inward focus on God simplifies our outward lives, personally and corporately. To live in that 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 return the rest, giving to others in need. The meeting’s discernment on where to give as a meeting should guide one’s personal giving. Clearness committees may also assist in personal financial planning, management, and giving.
I have greatly simplified my relationship to money by understanding money as sacred. Certain gifts are pure gifts from God: time, talent, health, and natural resources. We exchange these gifts for money. Money is simply a proxy for the gifts of God. In this understanding, spending money is as sacramental as drinking the blood and eating the body of Christ. As I say a grace before my meal, I say a grace when I purchase things. I acknowledge that what I purchase is something God and I am grateful that I may have the gift. I find much more joy in that which I do have and I find that I tend to spend less money. As I spend less, the money accumulates, and I am glad for the opportunity to invest in the health and retirement of myself and my girls, or in the many works of God around me. This sensibility about money completely changes my feelings. I do not feel that the money I have is “Mine, all mine, mine, mine.” I use what I need and pass the rest to others’ needs. I expect money, in anyone’s possession, to be used with the integrity that its sacredness demands. So I am able to be a clearer witness because I know more clearly how money is to be used in the service of the Spirit, and in so knowing am saved from the temptation to worship it in itself.