God and Money — Integrity, Character and Wealth

Integrity, Character and Money

Jesus Christ said more about money than about any other single thing because, when it comes to a man’s real nature, money is of first importance. Money is an exact index to a man’s true character. All through Scripture there is an intimate correlation between the development of a man’s character and how he handles his money. [Richard C. Halverson].

Being charitable does not always mean that we understand the transient nature of material wealth. We learn early that we can enhance our image through generosity. Our motives may often be self–serving attempts to buy our way out of a guilty conscience or a negative reputation.

Man’s merit lieth in service and virtue and not in the pageantry of wealth and riches. Take heed that your words be purged from idle fancies and worldly desires and your deeds be cleansed from craftiness and suspicion. Dissipate not the wealth of your precious lives in the pursuit of evil and corrupt affection, nor let your endeavors be spent in promoting your personal interest . . . Guard against idleness and sloth, and cling unto that which profiteth mankind, whether young or old, whether high or low. [Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Baha’u’llah].

Designer Chains

How do corporate executives look chained together in their boardrooms, with ankles shackled, each with their own heavy ball attached? If that’s too traditional, how about the more modern combo handcuffs and leg irons, with both wrist and ankle attached to a belly chain? These are popular chains for prisoners appearing in public or being transported between locations.

O shrewd businessman, do only profitable business: Deal only in that commodity which shall accompany you after death. [Adi Granth, Sri Raga, M.1, p. 22].

We measure success in our modern business community by profits, returns on investments, capital growth, market share, etc. Values, such as charity and honesty, are occasionally part of the vocabulary of the PR department, but rarely heard in the boardroom.

The practice of advocating corporate social responsibility in marketing communications activities is commonly known as cause–related marketing. Cause–related marketing (CRM) is defined as the process of formulating and implementing marketing activities that are characterised by contributing a specific amount to a designated non–profit effort that, in turn, causes customers to engage in revenue–providing exchanges (Mullen, 1997). In the USA, CRM is used as a corporate term for ‘working together in financial concert with a charity … to tie a company and its products to a cause’ (Ptacek & Salazar, 1997). It is a ‘dramatic way to build brand equity … as it creates the most added value and most directly enhances financial performance’ (Mullen, 1997). It (societal marketing) can generate the long–term value needed for a company to survive and achieve competitive advantage. (Collins, 1993). [Corporate Social Responsibility And Cause–Related Marketing: An Overview].

Measures of Success: God or Gold?

Being personally successful means that we have accumulated significantly more material wealth than the average person around us. Our possessions represent our status, fame and reputation and are key indicators of our worldly accomplishments.

We are so accustomed to disguising ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves. [Francois de La Rochefoucauld, Maxims #119].

We tolerate eccentricity – as measured by our peers – only when sufficient wealth has been accumulated to provide an invisible mantle patterned after the emperor new clothes.

Character is what you are in the dark. [D. L. Moody].

Wealth and fame open the door to deviation from normal, established behavior. Otherwise, we conform or face social isolation. Material success thus becomes a source of apparent freedom, an escape from our self-imposed enslavement.

There are survey data indicating that American adults and American college students, in particular, have increasingly focused on money and material things since around 1970 … Economist Robert Frank, for instance, argues (e.g., here and here) that as extreme wealth has become more common, more flaunted, and more visible, it has made middle class Americans feel more deprived and more obsessed about money and about what money can buy … “Higher” things may have to wait. [Claude Fischer, Money and Character].

Short Changing Our Soul

We buy into a short-term perception of existence and willingly engage in the accepted bartering of illusions, facades and cosmetic smiles.

Nevertheless, we are what we truly believe in our heart, not what we show to people. God sees beyond our facades, beneath rhetoric, into our soul.

O you who have attained to faith! Do not deprive your charitable deeds of all worth by stressing your own benevolence and hurting [the feelings of the needy], as does he who spends his wealth only to be seen and praised by men, and believes not in God and the Last Day: for his parable is that of a smooth rock with [a little] earth upon it – and then a rainstorm smites it and leaves it hard and bare. Such as these shall have no gain whatever from all their [good] works: for God does not guide people who refuse to acknowledge the truth. [Quran 2:264].

Without wealth, the nearsighted fortune seeker feels obligated to conform to the behavior of those surrounding him. He creates his own chains, then hopes to make enough money to be able to remove them.

Thousands upon thousands are yearly brought into a state of real poverty by their great anxiety not to be thought of as poor. [Robert Mallett].

Our appetite feeds on an unending chain of cravings. Each desire is linked to the previous and followed by another, in an interminable succession leading to perversion and depravity.

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. [James 3:16].

The Rule of Money 

In the Divine Reality, every evil of in our life, every wicked thought or deed, has its own inevitable chain of consequences. Nothing we do is inconsequential, be it good or bad.

The chain of consequences confronts us in the form of regrets and remorse. Only repentance and the Divine Grace can free our shackled will

“Ah! Would that (Death) had made an end of me! Of no profit to me has been my wealth! My power has perished from me!”… (The stern command will say): “Seize ye him, and bind ye him, And burn ye him in the Blazing Fire. Further, make him march in a chain, whereof the length is seventy cubits! This was he that would not believe in God, Most High. And would not encourage the feeding of the indigent!” [Quran 69:27-34].

We can dispel evil only with goodness. We can break the self-perpetuating chain which we construct only with benevolence.

Good morals and sound conscience, and good manners and virtues, are like a currency universally acceptable and which is not affected by changes in the values of other means of exchange. Those provided with such qualities are like merchants with the highest credit who can do business wherever they want. [Fethullah Gülen].

Our cosmetic veneer of compassion has to be pierced to allow us to see the depth of our common needs. We must recognize our temporary place in the material world and the deficiency of the secular systems that incorporate our avarice and greed.

We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose…Money must serve, not rule! [Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel, Ch. 2].

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