For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. ~I Timothy 6:10 NIV
A wise person should have money in their head, but not in their heart. ~Jonathan Swift
Not just the rich
Slavery to mammon (or pointless wealth, as I call it) isn’t the prerogative of the rich, much as us poor folks would like to think it is. For every CEO ready to step over their dead mother on their way to their next million there’s at least one ditch digger ready to throw their coworkers under the bus to keep their own jobs.
Labour leaders often remind us that rich capitalists bargain with their surpluses while the poor bargain with the bread from their tables, so in one sense the poor really do risk more by taking a stand against enslavement to money. But the result of this mutual enslavement is a destructive tango of greed and fear — between the goals of the financially independent and the subsistence needs of the financially dependent. By choosing to do “whatever it takes to survive and get ahead,” we play directly into the hands of the worst factions of the wealthy class.
What money slavery looks like
Slavery to money isn’t just evident in the lengths some will pursue to hang on to what they have or to acquire more than they need. Money might have a little too much control over you if you:
- buy a house only because that’s what responsible adults are supposed to do
- spend the bulk of your life working at jobs you hate in order to be able to afford said house
- grant special deference to the wealthy, believing that those with money are somehow better and that if you’re nice to them the good luck will somehow rub off
- buy what’s in style instead of what you really want to wear
- buy something that’s on sale even though you don’t need it, convinced that the markdown will somehow enrich your bank account
- when you hear someone going on about how much they spent on something unnecessary, you feel envy for their resources as opposed to concern about their wastefulness
Escaping money slavery means taking a good hard look at what we have and deciding we’ll make it work for us, but this is only a first step. We also have to become aware of all the little prods and pokes in our lives that attempt to throw us off balance and make us prostrate ourselves to the money gods all over again. We need to be conscious of where those messages are coming from (some of them are whispering away in our own heads) so that we can question and refute them. Here are just a few examples of money-god propaganda:
- If you buy this product or service, your life will improve. We don’t know anyone for whom this has happened, so you’ll have to take our word for it.
- All your friends have one. Why don’t you?
- Why are you playing your saxophone when there’s money to be made?
- Sure your job is mind-numbing, exhausting, and pointless, but you just have to bite the bullet.
- Why are you friends with people who can’t afford to have you over for dinner?
- We don’t have enough and it’s your fault.
- An artist will never make as much money as an accountant.
- Why are you such a cheapskate?
Some tips for proactive financial freedom:
- Spend only on things that have value for you.
- Don’t just sit back and expect money to come to you and stay.
- Do place limits on what you’re willing to do to earn money.
- Get off the beaten path and use your imagination to create work you love.
- The best way to double your money is to fold it in half and stick it back in your pocket.
- Avoid debt.
- Try to make every dollar do the work of ten.
- If you want to build wealth for freedom and independence pay special attention to how every penny is invested, but don’t be afraid of a little risk.
The gist of it all? Money rules us when we sacrifice our highest callings to it, and we rule it by putting it to work in the service of our highest callings.
However little you possess, your money is yours to govern in your own enlightened self-interest. See this as a divine right, and act accordingly.