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The spiritual meaning of money: consecreation

By James Jenkins and Jerry Borrowman

For Mormon Times

Published: Saturday, April 2 2011 6:00 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

Money plays a crucial role in happiness throughout our lives — sometimes contributing to spiritual well-being, but too often detracting from it. The stress associated with earning, accumulating and spending money can be exhausting. We are tempted to use money as a measuring stick of our personal worth and success, even though the scriptures insist it is a false measure.

Some wrongly judge that anyone who pursues material success must be selfish and vain, while others show contempt to those with modest means. But it isn’t the amount of income or number of assets that create a meaningful life. It’s in how we use resources we possess.

In our previous two articles, we suggested two ways to be more at ease with money. The first is to first act as stewards for our “earthly things” by managing them as resources given to us by God, to whom we are responsible for their use. Second is to apply the law of sacrifice to our time and money, recognizing that by sharing with others we gain spiritual substance. The third key is based on one of the definitions of consecration: to make worldly things holy.

With this definition, consecration means natural things are given spiritual power. Even the most mundane of possessions or activities can take on spiritual meaning if we consider how to use them to their best purpose. A stereo can play music that uplifts and invites the Spirit. A book can inspire and delight. A word processor can give expression to our best sentiments. Pharmaceuticals can reduce pain and extend life. If a new, expensive home is purchased mostly to feed our vanity and pride, a monument to our own financial prowess, it is spiritually destructive (particularly if it takes parents needlessly out of the home earning the extra money to maintain it). But if a family home is matched to the size of the family and consecrated as a gathering place where generations can come together for fun and fellowship, then it contributes to happiness. It all depends on how it is used.

Consecration defines things in terms of spiritual uses. As things are consecrated, even small expenditures can produce remarkable results. Money is no longer measured by quantity but by results in our lives.

Some practical ideas

With these principles in mind, it becomes easier to use money to greater effect. Barbara Floisand wrote, “The chief cause of financial failure and unhappiness comes from trading what we want most for what we want at the moment.” Too often, financial decisions are made in a vacuum without considering how applying money in one area reduces our abilities in other areas. To really gain control over our financial affairs, we need a process that helps us gain maximum benefit from our money, whatever its quantity.

One way to manage money wisely is to keep a journal of expenditures and prepare guidelines for future spending. This process is more a state of mind than a piece of paper. It requires one to consider the alternative ways money can be used before committing to a specific purchase. Since most people act impulsively, a formal process slows them down until the proper comparisons can be made.

Here are a few examples:

• Packing a lunch for work rather than eating out could save up to $1,000 a year. This amount could help get someone out of debt.

• For the same price it costs to purchase two large soft drinks each day, one could purchase up to $1,000,000 of term life insurance coverage. This may leave the entire family better protected.

• Suppose a family of five goes out to the movies once each week. If tickets and snacks amount to $50, this adds up to $2,500 for the year. If the family played games instead, or watched less expensive videos, that same $2,500 could provide a memorable family vacation.

Of course, each family must decide what is best for them. Budgeting points out the possibilities. Every money decision has a benefit and a cost. Without a budget, it’s easy to spend money in small increments that leave nothing worthwhile, meaningful or memorable.

With consecration, the physical object becomes a symbol of the spiritual purpose. A few examples: A diary is the physical representation of our important moments — a testimony to oneself and to others that can be called upon in times of trouble and despair. A dinner taken to a distressed family is a powerful way to show love — as we serve, our heart changes and we become more like the Savior. A note to a friend is a physical expression of gratitude that brightens their life and helps us appreciate the blessing of enjoying other people. A family meal, when consecrated by sincere prayer, becomes much more than food — it is a time for family to enjoy one another’s company.

Each of us must define the path best for us. Aside from a few basic rules, such as paying tithing and living within our means, we are free to come to our own conclusions. By including principles of sacrifice, stewardship and consecration in our thinking, we will add a spiritual dimension to make those decisions wisely, and our lives will be abundant.

Dr. James Jenkins, Ph.D. Finance, is a successful entrepreneur who has devoted a great deal of thought to how to live an abundant life.

Jerry Borrowman is a chartered financial consultant with a master's degree in financial services (MSFS). He is a bestselling author of World War I and II fiction and co-authored a biography. Visit www.jerryborrowman.com to learn more.

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