STEP TWELVE CONTINUED: Having recognized the difference between religion and spirituality, we strive to be true to the Spirit within all of Divine Creation and to be a Light to point the way.
Instruction: Separate wants from needs.
Religious institutions build buildings and hire staff to maintain the buildings and the programs of the religious organization. They need to raise money to keep the lights on and the employees fed. Is that really a need or a want? Do we really need buildings and staff to be religious? We certainly don’t need buildings or employees or even programs to be spiritual. Many people find it difficult to resonate with the concept of giving a certain amount of our earnings to the religious gathering we attend, and, perhaps, with good cause. I heard a story of a minister who refused to marry a couple without first examining their financial statement to be certain they were giving ten percent of their income to the church. The minister “wanted” them to give to his church, but it wasn’t necessarily a “need.” I’m sure he justified his action by referencing the holy text of his church, but his behavior was, in my opinion, unloving, judgmental, and self-serving.
I have wondered, from time to time, how The Divine feels about all of this. Does The Divine need our money, or does The Divine even want our money? What would The Divine do with our money if we could somehow send it to the place where The Divine resides? And, what about those religious leaders who prove to be unworthy of our gifts of time, attention, and money—people like Jim Jones of Jonestown, his People’s Temple, and his infamous grape Flavor-Aid? Certainly, The Divine would not have us support evil religious leaders who mislead their congregation in the name of their god. Does our Higher Power need these rules regarding money, how we spend our time, and how we act?
I’ve come to understand that men and women who direct our religious institutions have, at times, abused their power and have used guilt and shame to fill the offering plates. As we discern the difference between wants and needs, we will discover that we do not have to succumb to high power pressure tactics. We can donate in ways that are just as effective, and perhaps even more so, than the prescribed methods they would have us accept without questioning. Discerning the difference between wants and needs is important, because it also helps us discern the difference between being religious and being spiritual. Spirituality requires far less commitment to man-made institutions, rules, and structure, but, in some ways, spirituality involves more of our whole self than religion, but without the negative motivation of guilt, shame, and condemnation.
In today’s lesson we used the act of donating to a religious organization as an example of the difference between wants and needs. We looked at it more from a negative perspective, but take a moment to look at financial giving from both a positive and negative perspective. The point was to consider wants versus needs from a religious/spiritual perspective and to determine for ourselves where we will spend our money, time, and talents.
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