There is something in the human spirit that makes people want to feel that they are moving forward in some way. No one likes to feel as though they are stagnating. We all want to feel as though we are somehow progressing.
When we feel that we are progressing, it seems that our lives have meaning. When we feel that we are stagnating, it seems that life is meaningless.
Moreover, it seems that different people have different ideas regarding personal progress. Some people view progress in terms of their monetary advancement; that is, their financial growth. The more money they make, the better they feel about their progress in life.
Others view progress in terms of their spiritual growth. Are they becoming better people in some way? Are they more responsive to the needs of others? More giving? More honest? Less self-serving? More capable of standing tall in the face of adversity? More courageous? Wiser? More patient? Or, most of all, more loving?
The latter seems to me to be the higher view of personal progress in life. But it eludes many people. People become trapped in the worrisome cares of this world. Many of those anxiety-ridden concerns are centered around the love of money. Consider the words of Jesus:
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” — Matthew 6:24
I’ve always wondered why the two poles chosen were those of God and money. Why not God and sex? God and drugs? Or God and (heaven forbid) rock ‘n’ roll?
Having reflected quite a bit on this dynamic throughout the past two years, I believe I am beginning to understand. To pursue financial gain as one’s top priority in life is incompatible with the pursuit of personal, spiritual growth.
This is not to say that a person whose primary focus is on making money cannot do good things with their money. But the good uses of one’s money can take place without there necessarily being any positive change in that person’s character.
A money-hungry person, after all, could conceivably find themselves at a loss for true friends, since people are naturally put off by the energy of greed. That person might then reason that if they were to offer all kinds of goodies to a less privileged person whom they happen to like, then that more impoverished person might cling to them as though a friend, and they would not be so lonely.
But money cannot buy friendship any more than it can buy true happiness. The money-focused individual in this case is not really giving of his essence as a human being. Rather, he is giving of his excess — and perhaps even getting a hefty tax write-off in the process.
It is also not the case that if one is primarily focused on spiritual growth, then prospects for financial betterment will elude them completely. It only means that the spiritually minded person does not base their self-worth on their net worth. They do not identify themselves according to their financial stature, but rather according to the actualization of their true selves and their true values.
People like these feel no need to lavish pricey gifts upon others in order to secure the loyalty that only true friendship can secure. Rather, they seek out like-minded people, people with whom they would naturally best relate, because they share similar values and interests. As a Christian, I further believe that the Father of Life also seeks out such like-minded souls.
“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and Truth.” — John 4:23-24
It is a mistake to think that the presence of money will necessarily negate the possibility of true moral character. Many wealthy people are legitimately concerned for the plight of those who are suffering.
But it is also a mistake to think that one’s primary aim ought to be the acquisition of great wealth, rationalizing that some of the money will be offered to tax-exempt charitable contributions. My experience has been that the more I stay focused on the actualization of my true self — the person whom God desires me to be — then the more my needs are adequately met.
The more I love God, and the less I love money, the better off I am. It is then that my words and my music best reflect my concern and my hope for humanity. And while it may cost me some money to render these gifts, the ultimate value of this form of genuine self-expression is far beyond that which money can buy.
Andy Pope is a freelance writer who lives in the Pacific Northwest. He is the author of Eden in Babylon, a musical about youth homelessness in urban America.