Defining Success: Thoughts On God and Finances

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Is money bad? Jesus loved and lived amongst the poor. Mohammed, too, as far as I understand it was not a financially rich man. Moses had to first give up a life as a prince before he could fulfill his true destiny as a spiritual leader in the wilderness. Buddha reached Nirvana under a tree, not in a mansion.

Sometimes I read to help me go to sleep.  When I run out of real books, I turn to ebooks on my phone. The free ones, because I’m cheap like that. I’ll look up free personal finance books, free classics, free autobiographies, free anything that piques my interest.  Included in this are books on spirituality.

A Christian Quote on Universal Spirituality

Recently, I downloaded The Road to Armageddon: A Free Spiritual Guide. The author isn’t really clear.  Apparently it’s a transcript to some type of documentary. It’s edited by Chuck Facas. To be honest, it’s not very well-written (probably because it’s a transcript.) It’s hard to read and it has references to parts of a documentary I’m not really sure how to find. But despite the rambling nature and awful grammar, it’s struck me.

It has a decidedly Christian undertone, but notes that while the reference are largely Christian, many of the actual points are relatable to almost any religion/spiritual orientation. While I haven’t finished the book, so far I’ve found that to be true. There was one section I really wanted to share with everyone:

“What the forces of darkness want us to do is spend our life trying to grab for all the gusto that we can get –to get stuff–and to get things–and to treat people like things…There really is a purpose for us being here – and the purpose is not to live a worldly life, be successful and all this stuff.  The purpose has to do with this purification process that God” (or whatever power  you consider to be holy) “sent us to the mortal realms to overcome–but if you think about how brilliant this is of the dark side..if the dark side can get us to focus entirely on worldly things and waste our time –  works for him, doesn’t it? Because we waste an entire lifetime and accomplish nothing.”

This is not something I’ve never heard before. In fact, I’ve heard this exact point put more eloquently. I think a lot of us have. But for some reason at this time this rambling paragraph really hit a chord with me.

Do finances get in the way of our higher purpose?

Sometimes I think I need to recenter myself on what a better life means. Yes, it would be nice to set ourselves up so we never had to worry about money. Yes, it would be nice to be able to give back monetarily in amounts that would give us a reason to itemize and not take our standard tax deduction. Yes, it will be nice to see the fruit of all our hard work.

But Jesus loved and lived amongst the poor. Mohammed, too, as far as I understand it was not a financially rich man. Moses had to first give up a life as a prince before he could fulfill his true destiny as a spiritual leader in the wilderness. Buddha reached Nirvana under a tree, not in a mansion. If we’re reincarnated no amount of money is going to help us get out of that purification cycle and away from earthly suffering.

I don’t know if the answer is to be poor. I know it’s easier to be financially poor and spiritually wealthy. Almost all scripture I’m familiar with says so.

What I do know is that it’s important that we don’t waste our lives seeking after riches and forgetting everything else. Your net worth will be absolutely worthless when you get to whatever life you believe comes next. The metric that will be important is how much love you demonstrated. How much selflessness. How much empathy. How much compassion.

Even humanists, who generally don’t acknowledge anything beyond the world as we currently, scientifically understand it, do acknowledge that treating others well is a fundamental purpose for being.

Even if you’re not doing it to get let into some type of pearly gates that you don’t believe in,  life is fuller when we seek personal growth and love.

Ambition as a Four Letter Word

Money can sometimes get in the way of that personal growth. That empathy. Our focus on treating others like human beings who have struggles and emotions just like we do.

Ambition has only recently become not a dirty word. Among other reasons for this old attribution, ambition can be synonymous with selfishness, pride, and a willingness to do whatever we have to in order to achieve what we believe to be “worldly” success, even if we have to do something on the other side of “good.”

Don’t believe me? There’s a monologue in Macbeth you should read for Shakespeare’s hot take on the word.

Let’s self-reflect.

I’m not going to stop working on my financial goals. But there is a possibility that sometimes I need to put them in perspective. Considering how little finances matter to my soul, or even considering how much they can be a detriment to it, am I focusing on the right things?

Do I show enough love to those around me?

Do I pray/meditate/whatever you want to call it in order to center myself each day?

The answer to both is I could do more. And I recognize from past experience that focusing more on these things and less on the size of my paycheck or the items that need to be ticked off my never-ending to-do list makes me happier, gives me greater peace.

I don’t even have to wait for the next life.  I can feel it here and now.

Thoughts?  This topic and reflection is far outside the norm around here, and I’m interested in what you have to say.

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23 thoughts on “Defining Success: Thoughts On God and Finances

  1. thebudgetsandthebees

    I don’t think the two have to be mutually exclusive. I think you can work hard to get yourself into a position where you don’t have to worry about money anymore, while still living a spiritually fulfilling life. I think the key is balance. I don’t think you should work 100 hours a week and neglect your family to earn a few more dollars, but I also don’t think you should quit your jobs, sell every possession and live in the woods in order to devote all of your time to find peace. For me, the balance is right in the middle – work hard enough to give my family a comfortable life while still having plenty of time to spend with them along with a few moments to myself for prayer/meditation.

    Reply
  2. thebrokeandbeautifullife

    I’m not sure what is meant by that “purification” reference in the excerpt shared- perhaps it’s because I don’t believe in God.

    But I find that money buys me more time to do the things I love and be with the people I care about.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality

      Purification of the ill will within our souls. The quest to become the best people we can be. I don’t prescribe to a particular religion, and I don’t know which God is right and true, but I do know there is a peace in this world that money can’t buy. There’s an entire field of science built around studying happiness, and money is a minor part of the equation: https://femmefrugality.com/2012/09/how-to-be-happy.html. I’d argue that a full devotion to money is the worship of a god, albeit not an ethereal one.

      Reply
  3. thespunkybanker

    I’m not a religious person and I usually try to avoid the topic… but your post reminded me of my parents which is funny. My dad is usually a tightwad, and prefers to save his money while my mom is more of a free spirit and she always tells him “when you die you can’t take your money with you.” I feel like maybe I’ll live like that when I’m a “grown up” but for now I like the idea of saving a good amount of money to get myself thru for awhile. Even if my money won’t get my anywhere in another life it will get me somewhere in this one and that’s what I’m focusing on.

    That comment wasn’t very well written, I had some trouble finding my words so if it doesn’t make sense I apologize.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I hear you. I’m not particularly fond of organized religion. I’m very fond of pursuing spirituality, though. I still have respect for people who actively practice a particular religion, as they are mostly just trying to do good. I have equal respect for those who believe there is nothing, as there are some really hard “truths” you have to confront if you believe that way. Freedom of religion and an active respect for different view points are important.

      I’m torn on the issue as well. I think as long as we don’t let money get in the way of us being good, loving people who are charitable (not necessarily in the philanthropic sense of the word, but it could be,) considerate of the struggles of those around us, and kind, then pursuing financial wealth is not necessarily an “evil” pursuit. But if we focus all of our energy on the money it makes it extremely difficult to do all those things. Which I think is what all those spiritual teachers were getting at. I’m conflicted because I also think getting to a point where we are self-sustaining is a noble pursuit. Maybe just not to excess and obsession?

      Reply
  4. Mel

    I really liked this post. And I agree that there’s so much more to life than money.

    Although most organized religions also recognize it’s necessity and call it’s followers to use it wisely… which makes sense. It’s not that you need a lot, but being financially responsible does free you up considerably. It reduces tensions in relationships and lets you devote more time to what you want to be doing.

    I don’t know. This triggers so many thoughts…. which makes it a great posts, I guess!

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Thanks, Mel! And it really does give rise to a lot of inner conflict. For me, too. And most organized religions in this part of the world (maybe others…I don’t know) do support being financially together as it keeps us out of debt. Ironically, the biggest thing that leaves a sour taste in my mouth about religion is past and current history of the spiritual teachings being corrupted by the desire to have power over others, which is most often gained or secured through worldly wealth. This can be said about many different organizations and individuals, it just makes me so sad to see it in organizations that are supposed to be dealing with the welfare of the human soul.

      Reply
  5. Suburban Finance

    Sometimes I think about this thing too — what’s the point of pursuing financial goals when we’re actually going to die in the end, whether or not you believe in the after life. Nevertheless, I see that many organized religions teach its followers to live humbly and not be extravagant with their wealth, and that’s something that I’m trying to do. I will admit that I’m still pursuing my financial goals but if I have more than I need I’d like to share it with the poor or whoever is in need, because there’s no use of keeping my wealth only for me or my family. It’s probably part of the meaning of life for me.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I love it. I think that’s what is at the core…living humbly and remembering to help those in need. I think pursuing financial goals with those things in mind is the best way to go at it.

      Reply
  6. Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter

    I am not a religious person at all, but I do think that getting back to basics and re-centering ourselves will help us live a more simpler and fulfilling life. It’s difficult to do and especially to sustain in our society though, where bigger, better, and more are all valued far more than simple and quiet.

    Reply
  7. debt debs

    I used to think amassing money, spending money on yourself and your family was not a good thing. Then I went the other way because of the Joneses. Then I went back to my original thinking. Now lately, I’ve been reading that having money is not necessarily a bad thing spiritually and so am starting to reverse my opinion again. Focusing on lack of money is a bad thing for the psyche and soul and so could be considered a ‘sin’ of sorts. Consequently I’m trying to change my philosophy and be grateful for what I have but be open to the possibilities that more could do for my mission on earth.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality

      I don’t think obsessing over not having enough is a good thing. Like one of the things Buddha tried before reaching Nirvana was self-starvation and torture. That didbt work out well. I think the ultimate thing these philosophies teach is that a focus on the spiritual, rather than the worldly, is what leads to peace. It’s less about having or not having money and more about recentering yourself. I think? Ha I don’t have a concise answer. But if you have resources using them for the betterment of others is the way to go. .I agree.

      Reply
  8. The Thrifty Issue

    I have noticed a significant change in my finances since I decided to focus more on helping others and not so much on my actual income/how to get more money etc.

    As I have spent more time doing what I want with my family, helping my favourite charities and living a more centred life, my income has increased, my business expanded and I am not as stressed as I used to be.

    Interesting post.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I think there’s some type of karma or whatever you want to label it in that. Our world gets so much bigger when we place others at the center of it, and sometimes our income will consequently grow as a result. And I think the relief of stress is key, too! Why do we work so hard if not to relieve financial stress? Finding the balance between money and LIFE is the eye of that equation, and I am so happy you’ve found it. And you’re rocking it!

      Reply
  9. Kitty

    Great post. Although I’m an atheist, I feel very connected to the bigger picture, and what my place is in it. In personal finance, it’s very easy to let our focus drill down into our spreadsheets. Always good to have a reminder to lift it up.

    I was talking with a likeminded friend recently, who’d had a massive revelation about finance. As a highly compassionate, highly spiritual person working in arts and education, she’d always felt that trying to get more money for herself was vulgar and ignoble. It felt out of line with her values. But when she got a large unexpected raise, she suddenly realized all the ways in that money could help her do more. She could volunteer more, because she wasn’t exhausting herself with a side-hustle to pay her bills. She could pay full-price admission to support fellow artists, instead of taking advantage of the pay-what-you-can model that’s pretty popular in our area. She had the means to help friends and family if they were in crisis. And eventually, she could see a future where she could fund her own program to bring arts and education to underserved areas. It really shook her, and put her on a new path in life.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I love that perspective; doing well for yourself can lead to doing good for others when you don’t lose sight of the big picture. I think that’s the hardest thing for a lot of people; you need to have enough self-discipline to manage your finances well without becoming so absorbed in it that you can’t get outside your own spreadsheet!

      Reply
  10. Troy @ Bull Markets

    I’m officially a Catholic, but I never really believed in God. It’s more like I just believe in a higher being.

    Basically I’m ok with making money in any way possible as long as I’m not hurting someone while doing so. So while I’m no saint, I’m certainly not a Bobby Axelrod either.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I hear you. I was raised in an extremely religious household, but I’m not super into religion. For me it’s more about that undercurrent of commonality that near all religions touch on—sans dogma.

      And I think that’s a good rule. Keeping ethics first, but not feeling so much guilt that you get in the way of your own self-sufficiency.

      Reply

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