Abundance: Is It What We Think It Is? – Yes, and no.
In today’s world, there is no shortage of images and messages of “more is better.” We may have heard the saying, “whoever dies with the most toys wins.” Lyrics from a well-known Pink Floyd song tell us, “Money, get away, you get a good job with more pay and you’re okay. Money, it’s a gas, grab that cash with both hands and make a stash.”
While I believe the coining of the saying and the writing of the lyrics were meant to be satire, they would not have the sting that they do unless there was an underlying pervading culture that supports the idea that monetary wealth is an end unto itself.
Materialism is in no way merely a modern phenomenon. Shakespeare pokes fun at the self interest of both the “haves” and the “have nots”: “Whiles I am a beggar, I will rail and say there is no sin but to be rich; and being rich, my virtue then shall be to say there is no vice but beggary.” Philip the Bastard, soliloquy. King John, Act 2, scene 1.
Historically, Christianity has taught that earthly riches are not to be valued, and in fact were an impediment to eternal salvation. This is in part based on the story of Jesus and The Rich Young Man:
Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” When the young man heard this, he went away in sorrow, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:21-24
For most of human history, religious and political authority were one and the same. Christian kings and popes used the above Bible passage as a means to explain to the people, the vast majority of whom were poor, not to worry about earthly wealth because they would receive their compensation in the afterlife in heaven. To want for money was an evil, and that royalty and the aristocracy were ordained by God, and that rich people were rich and poor people were poor because that was how God wanted things to be.
With so much focus on material possessions and wealth in our culture, and the exact opposite long held Christian teaching that money is bad, it can be challenging for Truth students to transcend the cognitive dissonance this creates and to look at abundance with different eyes. In this week’s Sunday lesson, Rev. Joanne asks us, “What is getting in the way of your not seeing that everything you need is right here, right now?”
Conducting a mini-experiment, Rev. Joanne scattered numerous pennies in the Unity Spiritual Center parking lot before services began. She asked the congregation, of those who saw the pennies, who picked them up and why, and who did not pick them up and why. The range of responses was interesting. Some said that, their back hurt and they did not want to bend over. Others said that they wanted to leave the blessing for someone else. Still others said that they did not want to bend over to pick up “just a penny.”
The “just a penny” response prompted another question for the congregation from Rev. Joanne. How small of a blessing is too small to accept? A penny is the smallest monetary unit is U.S. currency. If you would not bend over for a penny, would you bend over for a nickel, a dime, a quarter, a dollar, ten dollars? Exactly where is the threshold for it not being worth your time and effort?
In an effort to explain where that line might be, people have used the example of an multi-billionaire finding money versus a person of average economic means. If a person who earns $50,000.00 a year sees a penny on the street, they may or may not stop to pick it up. But if that person sees a $1 bill, very high probability that they will pick it up. Using that same ratio, a person who is worth $5 billion dollars would not stop to pick up any amount of money less than $100,000.00. ($5,000,000,000 / $50,000 = $100,000).
Here again, we are focusing only on monetary value. But in Unity, while money and financial prosperity most definitely are part of abundance, it is certainly not the only thing, or even the most important aspect of true abundance. My net worth is much closer to the $50,000.00 per year person than the $5 billion person (I know you are surprised and disappointed, so am I), but every time I see a penny on the ground I do stop to pick it up. Not because $0.01 will make an appreciable financial difference in my life, but because it represents my being open to the bounty of the universe and recognizing that God’s gift of abundance comes to us in many different forms.
So what may some of those channels of abundance be?
Finances – career, savings, investing, availing oneself of opportunities, work and effort
Health – gratitude for our very life, caring for our body temple through exercise and healthy diet
Relationships – family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, the friendly clerk at the corner store whose name you do not even know
Rev. Joanne reminds us that too often we get the idea of abundance exactly backwards by believing that we need to find something outside of ourselves before we can be fulfilled. We can see the potentially negative consequences of such an attitude in trying to climb the corporate ladder. One might believe that they will finally be happy once they are promoted to Manager. But then after a short time they believe they will only be happy once they are promoted to Vice President, then President. Working hard and earning promotions are not bad things – not at all. It is through diligent concentration and skillful effort that our world improves. What can be a serious impediment to fulfillment is the mindset that it is only over the next hill that the Promised Land is located.
Each of us has been incarnated into a body when we entered this physical realm. How we choose to see ourselves and care for our bodies can be informed either by a consciousness of lack or one of abundance. I am a man of shorter than average stature, 5’5” tall. This is something about which I can do nothing to change. For many years I felt short changed by this fact (pun intended). Approximately twenty five years ago or so, I realized that not only should I stop worrying about something I can do nothing to change, but much more importantly that being shorter than average is not a bad thing is the first place. I moved from a consciousness of “less than” to one of gratitude for the body I have.
In relationships, we sometimes feel as though that if someone else behaved differently that only then would we be happy. We may also think that we lack love in our life, either from an intimate partner, family or friends. But we cannot receive in relationships what we are not willing to give away ourselves first. The Truth is that we do not lack for love, there are only an abundance of opportunities for love we have forgotten about.
Rev. Joanne reminds us that true abundance in all areas of our lives is about asking, “what is mine to do” and realizing that everything I need to succeed is already within me. All we need to do now is to open ourselves to listening and watching for Divine Ideas and acting upon them in an appropriate and timely manner.
Finally, I believe it is important to mention that an “attitude of gratitude” and knowing abundance is more than only material prosperity does not mean that having more financial means is a bad thing. These two ideas are not mutually exclusive. There is an idea known as the Matthew Principle:
For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Matthew 25:29
The most common interpretation of this verse is that the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. But Unity teaches that the “one who has” is one who is rich in spiritual consciousness and awareness, and the “one who has not” is a person who holds a consciousness of lack. I hope to address this idea in greater depth in a future essay.
Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back Luke 6:38
As you journey through this week, pause before spending money and give thanks. Bless your bills as you receive them. Bless your payments as you send them in. As you do this, take a breath and remember that God as Source has richly provided so that you know what is yours to do.
As I do this week’s Spiritual Practice above, I will indeed be mindful of all of my blessings. An attitude of gratitude goes a very long way toward experiencing Peace, Love, Happiness and Joy.