Spiritual meaning of money: sacrifice

By Jerry Borrowman and James W. Jenkins

For Mormon Times

Published: Friday, March 25 2011 6:30 a.m. MDT

“It is the business of man to find the spiritual meaning of earthly things. … No man is quite so happy … as he who backs all his labors by such a spiritual interpretation and understanding of the acts of his life.” – Elder John A. Widstoe

Part 1 of this series discussed stewardship — the fact that everything we have is a gift from God, and we are to act as his stewards in management of those resources.

A paradox is a proposition that seems self-contradictory but is actually true. Sacrifice is a paradox. It may not always make sense that giving is better than receiving, difficulties are to be preferred to ease and less is more. But sacrifice is an essential key to wise money management.

Take, for example, the testimonies of returned missionaries. Many of them say, “They were the hardest two years of my life, but it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.” Or consider young parents who struggle with a disabled child, sacrificing time, energy and money to meet the child’s special needs. Their efforts are almost always rewarded with a remarkable increase in their capacity to love, as well as joy and satisfaction as their child masters a new skill.

At a community level, who loves the sisters in the ward more than the Relief Society president, or who appreciates the struggles and victories of members more than the bishop who labors on their behalf? In each of these cases, sacrifice had deep spiritual benefits. As these people “lost their lives” in service, they found them.

The principle of sacrifice applies to money management as well. Tithing is a most obvious example. Logically, it may be difficult to argue contributing 10 percent of one’s income will increase financial security. Yet, members all around the world testify this is the case. As they pay tithing, they see an increase. The increase comes from both spiritual blessings and more wisdom in using what is left.

Sacrifice applies at all levels of human interaction: personal, family and society at large. Sociologists express concern that in the United States today, fewer than one-half of employed adults pay any federal taxes, other than Social Security (which is really a personal investment). With such a large group enjoying the benefits of roads, education, national defense and all the other benefits society provides while not making any personal sacrifice to support those services, it’s little wonder our national finances are currently in shambles. It certainly illustrates the wisdom of the law of tithing, in which everyone contributes something to the common welfare.

Sacrifice applies in other ways. Consider the mother who sets aside a promising career to raise her children. The sacrifice is real, for when she later re-enters the workplace she’ll be starting at the beginning, having missed years of opportunity and training. Yet, in return for what she gives up, she gains a million wonderful moments with her children that allow her to influence their lives and give them a sense of security only her association can provide.

It isn’t always easy to discern the best path. There is no pat formula to follow. It may be to a family’s long-term advantage to sacrifice some time with dad in the present, so he can acquire more education and improve his career. The only way to know the right way to proceed is to seek counsel, consider alternatives, weigh costs and benefits, and then submit a decision to the Lord.

There is another way to look at sacrifice. Some of the best things in life come from thinking differently. Sometimes we need to look past the things money can buy and consider the value of things it can’t buy. Here are some ways in which less may be more:

Staying in may be better than going out.

Homemade may be better than store-bought.

Later may be better than sooner (particularly if you have to go into debt to get it sooner).

Old may be better than new.

The past may be classic, better than the modern.

Doing it yourself may be better than having it done by someone else — particularly if you develop a new skill. Stated another way, the steepest trail may afford the best views.

The best part of one’s life may come from simplicity. Time spent together as a family playing an inexpensive board game may have greater impact on happiness than playing an expensive video game that isolates family members from one another.

A pleasant conversation with a friend may be of greater worth than a trip to the movies.

Time spent working together in a charitable cause may be more satisfying than time spent playing.

So here’s a strategy. The next time you’re challenged to make a financial decision, consider whether less might give you more. Sacrifice may prove a valuable financial strategy for having a happy and fulfilling life.

Next: Looking at the principle of consecration from a nontraditional point of view.

James W. Jenkins, Ph.D. finance, is an entrepreneur who has started numerous successful business ventures. Jerry Borrowman is a chartered financial consultant with a masters degree in financial services (MSFS). He is a bestselling author of World War I and II fiction. Visit www.jerryborrowman.com to learn more.

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