Almost everyone, even those who aren’t big on church or religion, have heard this verse:
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
1 Timothy 6:10
Although, many times it’s shortened, so it sounds more like this:
Money is the root of all evil.
Now, there is a significant difference between the verse and how it’s paraphrased. Though, with all of the greed, corruption, and cronyism in our society, I can understand how that difference can shrink and become less significant. Watch the news for a while, and money starts to transform into a symbol for evil.
But is it? Is money a symbol of evil?
Possibly, but there are different ways of looking at it. For example:
“Take out a dollar bill and look at it,” he said. “Now pat yourself on the back because you are looking at a certificate of performance. If you did not rob or steal from anyone to obtain that dollar, if you neither defrauded anyone nor persuaded your government to seize it from a fellow citizen and give it to you, then you could only have obtained that dollar in one other way – you must have pleased someone else.” How true those words. Whether you pleased a client, a customer, or your boss, that money is testament to your having pleased another human being. Having money is not shameful; it is a certificate of good performance granted to you by your grateful fellow citizens.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin, Thou Shall Prosper
So, money’s a certificate of good and not a symbol of evil?
Here’s the problem. Money doesn’t have intentions and it doesn’t take actions. It can’t be generous or greedy. It doesn’t have a mind of it’s own, and can’t be judged innocent or guilty.
Money is a tool. It’s like a hammer. It can be used to create or destroy, but it doesn’t do either until it’s put into the hands of a human being. That person lifts it with intention and swings it into action. They are the ones to be judged.
Some people treat money in such a way that it becomes a symbol of evil. Others treat it as a certificate of good performance. In the both cases, the bills and coins stay the same. It’s the approach that matters.
So, set your approach. What is the most valuable way that you can serve your fellow man? Don’t love wealth. Love people, and allow them to reward you.
(This covers the ninth chapter from Rabbi Daniel Lapin‘s book Thou Shall Prosper. Each chapter is one part of a set of core principles that approach business and money as spiritual practices, referred to as the ‘Ten Commandments for Making Money.’ I’m reviewing the ninth ‘Commandment’ here. My plan is to go through all ten. You can find out more in this post discussing my thoughts on the book. All quotes, unless otherwise attributed, come from the book.)
The very best way to come across to others as a fair-minded, big-spirited benefactor […] is to become a regular contributor to charities. To be sure, not only will this have you coming across as a larger person but, in fact, it will make you become a larger person.
I know that it’s been the better part of a year since I wrote my thoughts about the last chapter, and it’s been a year and a half since I started my review of this book. I’m not going to bother making excuses. Chastise me in the comments, if you must.
I don’t think the title of this chapter needed to be as specific as it was written. I do agree that generosity and charity are a fundamental part of any wealth-building plan. In fact, as you grow more wealthy, you should repeatedly reevaluate how much you are giving away and, hopefully, increase it. Ideally, 10% of your after-tax income would only be a start.
Now, I fully expect that some of you are looking at your monitors like a crazy person wrote that. Giving your money away doesn’t logically lead to wealth-building. Give away even more as you get more, that doesn’t make any sense either. How do you get rich by giving so much away?
Rationality is an excellent instrument for solving puzzles and paradoxes, but it is rather less effective when used to explain human behavior.
Questions of my sanity aside, it turns out that your level of generosity paints a clear picture of your attitude towards money. Dave Ramsey uses a great visual during some of his lessons where he compares holding your money in an open hand versus grasping it in a clenched fist. Money may escape the open hand more easily, but it can also find it’s way back with hardly any trouble. Being generous is actually a very common trait among wealthy people, and often they were givers before they were rich.
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered.
– Proverbs 11:24-25
So, what is it about an attitude of generosity that makes it so key to building our own wealth? How does the open hand attract more money to it?
1. Generosity is an exercise in risk. Unlike just about any other financial transaction, with charitable giving you irrevocably give up control of your money. Once you give it, you’re unlikely to get anything directly in return, and you give up all say as to how it is used. That’s helpful, because it reminds us that there are no guarantees with any financial transaction, and it encourages us to develop and use wisdom prior to a transaction. The more risks we take, the more wisdom we have for our next transaction.
2. Generosity points your heart in an outward direction. In the Bible, Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Wherever you are placing your money, your heart is going to follow. Your thoughts, concern, and energy become invested along with your capital. When you donate some of your money towards serving and meeting the needs of others it connects your heart to them, and as you interact with those charities, it exposes you to new financial (and social, and career, and spiritual) opportunities.
Finally, here are a couple more quotes from the chapter that stood out to me:
Jews do not give away money because it is always rational to do so, but in spite of the fact that it is often irrational. Jews give money away not because it is rational but because it is right.
What makes it right? Even if you engage in the risk of giving and see absolutely no return, to yourself or others, was your generosity still right?
I don’t want to sound too metaphysical, but your object is to create a movement of money from the world around you to you. There is a sad sense in which each person lives a lonely, isolated existence. […E]verything of value flows from how effectively you battle that loneliness and how effectively you bond with others.
Unconnected people generally find it difficult to build wealth. Generous people have more opportunities to build connections.
It is hard to invest effectively if you absolutely must win every single time. That is not how investing works, and it is not how business works. In fact, it is not how life works at all.
Life is full of failures. The question is, how do you handle them? Are they millstones weighing you down, or a stepping stones that help you grow?
Active, busy, creative people produce so much more value than the food they eat and the shelter they occupy. They are far from net consumers.
We tend to throw around the word consumer a lot, without thinking what that is saying about the people we’re referring to. What are we saying about our customers when we call them consumers?
That’s my take on Rabbi Lapin’s Ninth Commandment for Making Money. Keep looking here for my thoughts on the Tenth (and final) Commandment: Never Retire. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions about this chapter, whether you’ve read the book or not. Thanks.