I have never accepted that money was the root of all evil. Yet the way of peace has to face the current dominance of greed.
Some liberal Christian theologians have tried to soften Christ’s apparently blanket condemnation of riches by saying that what he really meant was that love of money is at the root of all evil. The semantic difference is that in the first statement money causes evil while in the second it is only associated with it.
The issue of money and spirituality has changed since Saint Francis of Assisi formed a band of impoverished brothers. Saint Francis took literally a Biblical passage in which Christ says to his disciples, “You have received the Gospel without payment, give it to others as freely.”
Begging monks were a tradition that was already centuries old in India and China.
The basic problem with money seems obvious: It pulls the mind toward worldly things, it fills up one’s hours with business and commerce, it distorts the true values of spirit by replacing them with pleasure and possessions. To me, this doesn’t say that money is evil or nonspiritual. It says that money is a distraction, and sometimes so powerful a distraction that people fail to go beyond it.
The failure here is to unite spiritual and material values, but I believe the way of peace shows us that this is not only desirable but totally necessary.
If you live as though money brings the only happiness, clearly something has gone wrong. Without holding moral judgments against money, I must accuse riches of being a terrible distraction. They hold us in the grip of a false self-image, that of being creatures whose purpose on earth is to be prosperous and secure.
Our real purpose on Earth is very different, as every spiritual tradition recognizes.
We are here to evolve and grow.
We are here to discover who we are.
We are here to transform our surroundings in keeping with who we really are.
Great spiritual teachers have said that we are ultimately here to transcend matter, to worship our maker, to appreciate the infinite creation and learn humility before it. All those things may emerge once we know who we really are. That is life’s central mystery, and money doesn’t come close to answering it.
Adapted from Peace is the Way, by Deepak Chopra (Three Rivers Press, 2005).