Saturday, March 21, 2009

One Episcopal Sunday and the Spirituality of Money

Tomorrow, on our Fourth Sunday of Lent, we are going to observe One Episcopal Sunday at St. Paul's. For those unfamiliar with this, the One Campaign is the effort among many churches to advocate for the eradication of global poverty. 

That may sound utopian (aren't the poor "always with us" as Jesus says?). Yet it is a reachable goal if the governments of the developed world could devote significant economic resources to bringing such things as safe drinking water and farm irrigation systems to the developing world. We will talk more about that tomorrow. For more information about the One Campaign, click HERE.

There is, of course, more to this than advocating that governments do things. It also has something to do with how us and how we live and what we do with the resources entrusted to us in this lifetime. Although the Church seems to fight endlessly over sex and marriage, in all truth Jesus had little to say on those subjects and a great deal to say about money. Sometimes it feels like we'd rather avoid talking about the really tough subject: our money, how we make it and what we do with it.

My friends at the Bread of Life Center in Sacramento are doing something interesting this Lent around the topic of money. The Center, which relocated itself from a comfortable suburb to a poor neighborhood, does a lot of work in training spiritual directors. This Lent the Center invited spiritual directors and others to participate in a program of writing spiritual autobiographies  around the topic of money. Below are the questions the Center is giving to participants, and I commend this exercise to you:
Questions About Your Family History With Money

What were your childhood messages around money?
What was your father’s attitude about money? Your mother’s attitude? Did your parents ever fight about money? Who in your family made the money decisions? Would you call your parent(s): Generous, Cautious, Stingy?

How would you describe your early personal experiences with money?
Magical? Worrisome? Fun? Scarce? Enough? What happened that led to your early decisions about money? Did you ever steal money or shop-lift as a child? If so, did you get caught? What did you learn from that experience?

Was/is anyone in your family a member of a union?
What was your attitude toward the trade union movement growing up? Now?

Have you ever experienced unemployment?
Have you ever received public assistance, or has anyone in your family? Bankruptcy or foreclosure? What did such experiences feel like? How have they affected the way you think about yourself and about money?

What memories do you have about your first job?
How did it feel to first earn your own money?

If you are or ever have been in a significant relationship, how would you describe the way you and your partner made money decisions?
How did/does your relationship with money impact your marriage, your sex life, your play? Does this way of relating to money look anything like your parents?

Do you ever worry about having enough money?
About running out of money and becoming dependent upon others? Where does the worry come from?

Today the word that best describes your attitude about money is ______________.
How does this attitude align with your deeply held values and/or religious beliefs? If it aligns, what has helped make this so? If it doesn’t align well, what is the impact?

How does the disparity between the wealthy and the poor of the world impact your life?
What arises in you around the amount of money you have compared to others? How does this awareness affect you?

What do you want your relationship with money to look like?
What is missing for you in your current relationship with money?

What kind of personal debt burden do you now carry (consumer credit, mortgage, loans, etc.)?
Have you ever had tax problems? What is the effect on your mental/emotional/spiritual health?

Did your parents invest in the stock market?
What messages regarding “savings” and financial security did you grow up with? For you, what does an ‘investment’ consist of? How have you invested? How actively have you tried to manage your investments?

Do you have any secrets about your relationship with money? If so, are you willing to share them now with someone? If not, why not?

Do you have any forgiveness work (with God, yourself or others) to do about your history with money?
Have you had, or still have, a gambling problem? Have you lost or stolen other people’s money? Have you lied to loved ones about how you spend money? Have you invested in endeavors that exploit others or pollute the earth?

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