Wednesday, 15 June 2016

The Ethics of Money



A few weeks ago I wrote about money.  This is a subject many "spiritual" people find challenging.  But it is also something we must all address unless we decide to go and live on a desert island.  We each have our own slightly different take on the subject.  You may find you disagree completely with mine, but hopefully not.

What are the ethics of having and using money?

My belief is that correct stewardship of money is highly ethical.  It is something that is required of all of us.  Notice my choice of word here - "stewardship".  One definition of stewardship is "responsibility to shepherd and safeguard the valuable of others".  So do I mean that our money belongs to someone else, not to us?  Yes, I do!

Money is not something you keep forever.  For a start, you will not be taking it with you when you leave this life.  Ancient Greeks and Romans believed it was necessary to pay a bribe to Charon, the ferryman whose job was to take you over the river between life and death.  But "Charon's obol" was just a single coin, not all the wealth the deceased had acquired during life.

Money belongs to society, not to you.  Some of your money is taken directly by society in the form of taxes which pay for all the services you enjoy.  But even the money that is not taken in taxes still really belongs to society.  If you are looking after it properly it is not hoarded by you and kept locked away - it flows through you.  As it flows, you can enjoy the benefits which come to you.  Be grateful for those benefits, and at the same time make sure the flow is not interrupted.  Some people do not allow it to flow properly, trying to keep it and all its benefits just for themselves.  Those same people also usually do not feel or express any gratitude for the benefits their money brings.  This is a very short-sighted attitude.  It is not only unethical, but also self-defeating.  Those of my readers who are Christian probably know the following quote very well:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." (Matthew 6:19)

Many people interpret that verse as saying it is unethical to acquire money.  But this is not what it says.  In my interpretation this verse tells me not to dam the flow of money, trying to keep it for myself, but instead to allow it to flow through me, bringing benefits not only to me but to those around me.

If you truly allow money to flow through you then you will find more and more comes to you.  Especially if you feel and show gratitude for it.  But if you have a very selfish attitude, feeling that only you should benefit from it and trying to stop the outward flow, you will find the inward flow also slows and less and less comes to you.  This is almost a law of nature.

Think about it for a moment.  When you use money it passes from you to someone else.  Presumably you receive something in exchange for the money, so you now have a benefit you did not have before the transaction.  This may be a very tangible, immediate benefit such as a nice meal at a restaurant.  Or it may be something less tangible and providing a benefit at some time in the future - for example a deposit on a holiday.  But whatever it is, you now have a benefit (or a right to a benefit) for which you should be grateful.  This is only one side of the transaction though.  The person to whom you paid the money now has more money.  If they are in business they may use some of that money to pay wages to their employees.  If enough money flows through them they may employ more staff.  So by allowing that money to flow through you, not only are you benefiting from whatever it is you are buying, but so are other people.  The business owner who may now be able to expand his or her business benefits.  So do the employees of that business who are employed only because you and others like you have allowed that money to flow.

As long as the people to whom you pay the money allow that money to flow through them as well, that flow continues on and on.  Just a small amount of money has a ripple effect that benefits so many people in so many different ways

This is why I think of the "ownership" of money as "stewardship".  You will not keep it.  It is your job to use it responsibly, allowing it to flow to others, bringing both you and them (and many others you have never even met) many different benefits.

Do not misunderstand me though.  I am not saying that you must go out and spend all your money, not saving or investing any of it!  That is not what I mean at all when I say you must allow it to flow through you.  It would most certainly not be ethical to spend it all and then rely on others to provide for your needs later.  Again, the word "stewardship" comes into play here.  Certainly invest your money so that you will have more to use in the future and will not have to rely on the charity of others or the safety net provided by the state.  Allowing money to flow is a state of mind, accepting that money belongs to the Universe, and that you are simply its custodian for a short period of time.  During that short time (your lifetime) it is your responsibility to see that it flows properly, providing the right benefits to you and to others.

Some of your money will (or at least should) be used mainly to bring benefits to others rather than to you.  For example any payments you may make to charities.  I say "mainly", though, as in reality this also brings you a benefit - the benefit of knowing you have done the right thing, of knowing you have helped others and that their lives are now better as a result of the gift you have made.

Think about how you are using your money, and make sure this is fully aligned with your core inner beliefs.  This is the true ethics of money - the ethics of right use, whether that is direct spending or investment.  You cannot be responsible for how others may end up using the money you have allowed to flow through you to them, but there are certainly some very obvious distinctions you can make when deciding how to use and invest your money.

From now on, never allow yourself to feel that money is evil, a burden, or something you have to grasp and hold on to.  Allow it to flow through you.  Channel it in ways that bring good into the world around you.  And feel and express gratitude all the time for the benefits that flow of money is bringing to you and all those in contact with you.

7 comments:

  1. Thank you Graham, you have just given me a vital key to living a happy and prosperous life, through the wise use of money.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am glad you found my article helpful Francis. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for the well written article. Plz allow me to add to it that some Musllims get the advantage of this wholly month of Ramadan to quit some bad habits such as smoking.

    Best regards

    Thx-Eid

    ReplyDelete