New Thought Editorials > Prosperity and Spirituality


Summer 2006

Prosperity and Spirituality

Is it spiritual to be prosperous? Many people don’t think so. They believe that spirituality somehow involves turning one’s back on the physical world and all connected with it, such as, presumably, money: "You cannot serve God and mammon" (Matt. 6:24). Mammon means material wealth or possessions.

But the Bible also says, "Remember that it is the Lord your God who gives you the power to become rich" (Deut. 8:18). Jesus said, "I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness" (John 10:10).

The great American philosopher and pioneer in psychology, William James, pointed out in The Varieties of Religious Experience that people who approach spirituality by withdrawing from the world and practicing various austerities really aren’t doing much to help humankind. Perhaps they are helping by praying for others, but how much mental energy is available to them when so much attention is involved in shutting out the world instead of reveling in it? Jesus also said, "It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). Where did we ever get the notion that it would somehow please God for us to turn our backs on the gift of life in all its richness?

Many people believe that life is a zero-sum game in which for you to win, I must lose. This is not what the Bible teaches and not what Jesus taught, although he did indicate that we should help people in need and not hoard–be possessed by–our possessions. The key to an abundant life for all is flow, keeping things moving, whether it’s our money or our physical goods. Congestion leads to stagnation and decay. In the parable of the talents, the servant who buries his master’s money in the ground is reprimanded, whereas the servants who invested the money to earn more money are commended. Unity minister Catherine Ponder has long taught that to increase the flow of financial prosperity into your life, you need to clean out the attic and the cellar, both your physical belongings and your outworn, inaccurate beliefs about prosperity and your right to prosper.

New Thought teaches that you can’t help the poor by becoming one of them. Poverty is a state of mind, and pouring abundant resources into a poverty consciousness doesn’t help; the person mismanages the wealth and remains poor. On the other hand, tiny amounts of money have led to great wealth for people with an abundance consciousness, who multiply money the way Jesus multiplied the five loaves and two fishes to feed the crowd of 5,000 people.

Money is a way of keeping score. It replaced the system of bartering goods and services, which was simple but inconvenient (imagine having to show up at the shoemaker’s with a chicken under each arm when you need a new pair of shoes!). Metal coins are used as money. Clam shells have been used as money. In the early American colonies, tobacco was used as money. Paper certificates are used as money. Money is a concept. Some people understand this idea very well and use it to prosper themselves and others. Other people never master the idea of money and how it works, so they remain trapped in a poverty consciousness, regardless of how hard they work or how valuable their skills may be.

The rules for the game of finance change from time to time as our culture changes, and we need to change with them. What worked in an agrarian economy didn’t work so well in an industrial economy, and what worked then may not work in today’s information economy. We all need to go on learning about the wonderful, prosperous ideas of money and finance so that we can all grow, as indeed, God grows, for God is in us and we are in God. It is our spirituality, our relationship with God, that enables us to prosper. The psalmist wrote, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May those who love you prosper. May there be peace inside your walls and safety in your palaces . . . .I pray for your prosperity’" (Ps. 122:6-7, 9). Jerusalem means Uru Salem, the city of peace, the symbol of an uplifted consciousness.

At this year’s Annual Congress, INTA will honor Edwene Gaines with the first Torchbearer for New Thought award. Edwene defines prosperity as "peace of mind, health of body, harmonious relationships, and all the cash you can spend!" In short, prosperity is the presence of God at work in our lives. Come help us honor her for her work of teaching the connection between prosperity and spirituality.