Whatever our philosophy on money, however much we give or save, and regardless of how we rationalize, we’re still left with some basic practical realities.
No matter how lofty your spiritual ideals may be, no matter how many powerful affirmations you can speak by rote, you still have to pay your bills.” —Eric Butterworth, Spiritual Economics
We still have obligations. We still benefit from others’ talents and resources. They need to be paid. We need to be paid. In a world where currency is the language of trade, we eat, drink, clothe ourselves, and shelter ourselves by getting paid.
These facts don’t change for people in the social sector, people who spend their prime waking hours and some nights too helping, teaching, guiding, or counseling others.
Our beliefs about sharing resources don’t change those facts. Beliefs about tithing or donating to good causes and other people in need don’t change the facts.
Wherever we draw benefits from other people, and we all do, there’s that rule: we still have to pay our bills.
Don’t worry (be happy)
A short teaching on worrying about life’s necessities is tucked into the middle of the Sermon on the Mount:
So I tell you, don’t worry about the food or drink you need to live, or about the clothes you need for your body. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothes.” —Matthew 6:25
Food, drink, and clothes are really great things. I love them all! I don’t seek out involuntary hunger, thirst, or nakedness for myself and don’t wish it on others close or distant. That anyone in our world doesn’t have these basics of life is a testimony against us all.
In Matthew, I don’t see Jesus arguing that people should seek out experiences of lack. But I believe he was right to caution us on worry.
Worry shows up in my life as a creativity vampire. When I think of all of the times during grad school when I stalled on my art or struggled to deliver work I knew I was capable of, I can map those periods to straightforward survival insecurity: health concerns, for instance, or having to trade-off groceries and mandatory federal fees.
Beyond those kinds of binds, worry drew my attention away not only from my routine work but also from the vision and energy that I might otherwise have devoted to co-building a world where no one need be hungry, thirsty, naked, isolated, or purposeless.
Many people don’t even believe such a world is possible: we do have 7.125 billion people to care for. But I think this sense of futility undermines our imaginations and, combined with the low hum of worry, discourages us from taking action.
When we believe there is not enough, that resources are scarce, then we accept that some will have what they need and some will not. We rationalize that someone is destined to end up with the short end of the stick.
When we believe that more is better, and equate having more with being more…then people on the short end of that resource stick are assumed to be less smart, less able, even less valuable, as human beings. We feel we have permission to discount them.
When we believe that’s just the way things are, then we assume a posture of helplessness. We believe that a problem is unsolvable. We accept that in our human family neither the resource-rich members nor the resource-poor members have enough money, enough food, or enough intelligence or resourcefulness to generate lasting solutions.” —Lynne Twist, The Soul of Money
Investing in imagination
People of faith and ethical philosophy have a responsibility to set the mental and material stage for people living and choosing every day: we need worlds of experience where people don’t feel so powerless and aren’t so under-resourced that worrying makes sense for them, for us.
We need to live. We need the basics to live well. And we need them as a baseline for building thriving lives of trust, hope, and constructive action.
There are enough resources on Earth to feed, water, and clothe everyone here. We don’t lack because there isn’t enough. People lack because we don’t care for each other enough to distribute what we have effectively.
We can change those realities because we created them. We can change them and replace them with a world of enough. And we can change and challenge the circumstances and doctrines that got us living in futility and learned helplessness; we can change them one conscious gift at a time.
Support people and organizations whose contributions nourish you and build the world you plan to live in.
Divest from people and organizations whose contributions shore up fear or futility, or teach you that what is is all that can be.
Give your time and skills, networks and attention to the work and world you’re drawn to, because only through our imaginations and investment will that world ever bloom.