How To Be Poor In Spirit Despite Money

Looking Back

poor in spiritShe and I had and still have very little in common, except for the obvious fact that we are both women. Despite all that separates our world, I could not help but empathize with her back in 2003. It is hard for me to imagine having that much money at my disposal, even harder for me to think about living in the spotlight as she did – even from her prison cell.

Martha Stewart is a self-made woman – in as much as she built her earthly empire and earned her money with the sweat of her blood. When she was indicted in 2003, I was not among the thousands, possibly millions of people, who cheered and jeered her. “How the mighty has fallen!” they said.

Admittedly, my empathy did not come from some noble place in my heart. Rather, for a moment I walked in Martha’s shoes. I became a millionairess in seconds, driving through the posh and not so posh streets of the United States, ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and drinking champagne with the rich and famous. In that moment, I realized the fear and anxiety she must have experienced when a different bell tolled and said to myself, “I would not want to be her.”

Our Relationship With Money

Martha’s story is the story of us all, including the scenes where people were seemingly clamouring for her downfall. It is a story, which must cause each of us to ask ourselves – “What is my relationship with money?” I invite you to explore this question with me again through this post that I first published in 2005. Those of us who are like Martha and those of us who wish we had even half of her monetary wealth, let us look at our hearts to see whether we could live in “Martha’s Vineyard.”

The lover of money will not be satisfied with money, nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This is also vanity. Ecclesiates 5:10

He who considers wealth a good thing can never bear to give up his income; he who considers eminence a good thing can never bear to give up his fame. He who has a taste for power can never bear to hand over authority to others. Holding tight to these things, such men shiver with fear; should they let them go, they would pine in sorrow. They never stop for a moment of reflection, they never cease to gaze with greedy eyes – they are men punished by Heaven. Chuang Tzu 14

moneyYou would not understand my relief when a Minister of religion clarified for me that money is not the problem, rather it is the love of money that is the root of all evil. This message came through to me shortly after embarking on a journey to understand my faith tradition as I had wrestled with issues that for years prevented me from doing so. One of them was money. The big question for me was how to balance what Jesus said about
“blessed are the poor” and the reality of not being able to pay my basic bills – rent, food, transportation, clothing and financing my then young child’s education.

For those who do not have a lot, money seems to be the key to happiness. When we see the lifestyle of the rich and famous like Martha Stewart and other celebrities today, we become envious and want that life for ourselves. Reading the many accounts of broken life among celebrities one has to wonder though whether, with all their wealth, are these people really happy?

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For a long time before her indictment, I thought Martha Stewart owned Martha’s Vineyard – a place where her friends could vacation. You can imagine how foolish I felt upon learning the truth! Not all was lost however, as I came to a greater realization that my then ignorance of U.S. geography held a valuable lesson. Martha Stewart is probably rich enough to own a good piece of that picturesque area of Massachusetts. Further, being the purveyor of fine living and dining, she probably would consider getting into the wine business someday. The lesson that I got from this connection however goes deeper.

Jesus Teaching About Money and Wealth

Jesus also spoke about a vineyard owner in the gospel of Matthew. He told a tale of a landowner who, needing labourers for his vineyard, went out five times to the town square and hired men who were idling. At the end of the day, this landowner paid each man the same wage although some worked for fewer hours than others. This caused a dispute, as those who were hired earlier thought they would receive more. The owner of the vineyard we could say was taken aback by this as he had honoured what he agreed to pay them and then generously decided to pay the same amount to those who came on last. He said, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” (Matt 20:15)

The Martha Stewarts of this world have much in common with this vineyard owner. They have property and great wealth. They have the ability to hire many and affect the economic and social lives of communities through their entrepreneurship. They determine wages and benefits that they will offer and sign contracts binding them to keep their end of the bargain and for the most part, they do. The practice in corporate America, Canada and anywhere in the world however is “last in first out” and the ‘junior’ members of staff are often paid less. Not to mention the salaries that women are paid in comparison to their male counterparts.

That is where the similarities between the landowner of Matthew and the Martha Stewarts of our societies end. The landowner in Jesus’ story is God* and God is an equal opportunity employer in every sense of the word. God is also a generous employer, seeing the need of the community and not focussing on His/Her bottom line. In this story, Source did not place an ad in the paper but personally went out, not once but five times, to take people off the streets. At the end of the ‘work day’, each person was paid equally – from Source’s bounty and generosity, not from man’s idea of proportional pay for proportional work.

This approach does not make sense to most of us. We would try to save a buck and pay the people hired for fewer hours less. We pay by the hour and not from any generous attempt to alleviate poverty. We see money as an instrument of privilege and something to be amassed and hoarded for our personal pleasure. The more money we have the more privilege we expect to be extended to us. In our giving, we do so in a fashion that people take notice and praise our ‘kindness’. We expect the people who receive from us to feel privileged that we gave to them.

God, the vineyard owner in Jesus’ story does the opposite. The Creator does not try save a buck and pay according to hours worked only. We could say that as God ‘knows’ there is no lack and so freely pays from a generous place where there is no need to hoard or store. Jesus’ told this story to describe what he called the kingdom of heaven where all are equal. He illustrates that there is no need to hoard and generosity is shown to people in need – not because a tax break is involved.

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It’s All About Living

vineyardThe vineyard has its own meaning. The fruit of the vine is symbolic of life. The labourers are toiling for life. We satisfy many of our basic needs in life through money. The landowner in this story recognizes this and shares to sustain the life of not just those who worked for longer hours but all who were unemployed.

Money is also a symbol of our relationship with the Divine.  According to Eric Butterworth, money is not the object of life’s search for meaning, it is merely a symbol of our relationship with universal substance. Herein is the connection to what Jesus said in the Beatitudes. I stopped short in reading the first verse and did not see the real implication of his words to the disciples.

Blessed are the poor in spirit . . .

Finally, I understood that Jesus, the Master Teacher, was not suggesting that to attain the kingdom of heaven one needs to intentionally remain in economic poverty. Rather:

  • The “poor in spirit” are blessed because of their humility before What is sacred to them and their willingness to toil for their living and the lives of everyone.
  • The “poor in spirit” are those to do what Chuang Tzu said and “seemingly” hand over their authority to others, loosen their hold on material wealth. They share easily and are generous to others despite how much or how little money they have.
  • The “poor in spirit” are those who have no need to hoard and try to get the biggest bang for their buck no matter what.

The financially wealthy like Martha, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Mark Zuckerberg to name a few in today’s world,  or those who are poor and homeless are owners of personal vineyards and each must seek to grow and produce the best fruit. This is achieved not by being in love with money, but by ‘poverty’ in spirit or better said ‘ego’. Therein we find happiness.

And that is the lesson to be learned.

  • The word/name “God” is used interchangeably with Source, The Creator, The Divine, Allah or any other names that readers might apply to that which they feel is greater than them and is the originator of life.

Claudette P Esterine

A chaplain and spiritual counsellor by training, my aim is always to spread the table and invite you to take what you need or desire from it. We each have our paths to what is Truth in and for our lives and in honour of that, this blog never proselytize or promote any one way.

Through these pages, Weekday Wisdom©, KB Life Newsletter and all other publications – we lay out for you choices, a wide variety for you to select what suit your palate and tastes. Membership in this community is not based on any particular faith stream, religious belief, culture, colour of your skin or even gender, although our primary audience is women. Join us, bookmark this page and come back every day for conversations that a practical and touching every aspect of your life!

Claudette P. Esterine


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53 thoughts on “How To Be Poor In Spirit Despite Money

  1. Awesome article Claudette.

    There’s so many confusing beliefs about money and I feel that there is a stigma around wanting more money or a better life for yourself. It is when you begin to love money – that’s when things go awry.

  2. CourtneyLynne

    I can totally agree that money is not everything!!! I have been both rich and poor in my life and I can say where I am now, in the middle, that’s where it’s at! Too much of anything makes you not appreciate anything. Too little of anything brings on jealousy even if your not the jealous type.

  3. Money is really not everything. Satisfaction means a lot. Great post indeed!

    1. Ms Claudette

      Thank you for that and you are right on the money! 🙂

  4. I so agree money is not all! I gave up my career which was darn good – to raise my family. a financial burden and I do not regret it at all

    1. Ms Claudette

      So many have done that and I am yet to hear anyone say it was a mistake. Thanks for sharing that Eileen. 🙂

  5. Karlyn Flores

    Such a great post, The money was important to us for our needs but my happiness money can’t buy.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Absolutely Karlyn – that’s one of the many things money cannot buy which if you have it money will be attracted. Thanks for the visit and for sharing that. 🙂

  6. April G

    Such a great post, I’m so sad to my Mother-in-law her mouth was only Money and money again, Her money was making her as a God

    1. Ms Claudette

      Sadly, many can relate to what you are saying. Too many have made money the only focus of their lives. Thanks for sharing that. 🙂

  7. Love this post! God is our provider, HE knows what we need and we just have to be faithful to him. He’s never too early nor late in giving.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Amen feels like the appropriate response to that! Thanks Ayesha. 🙂

  8. The material things in our world keeps us from truly understanding and embracing how unique and amazing we truly are. We use things as armor/distractions/props. Rather than be confident in our own voices and minds.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Word!!! Thank you for that and your visit. 🙂

  9. This is true but complicated at the same time. Yes, money dont bring happiness, the love of my family and my friends does, but in the other hand, I can not pay the bills with love. So it would be nice to be rich economically and be rich in spirit.

    1. Ms Claudette

      I smile as I read your comment because you are right. I can only share my experience – when I focussed on the lack of money, my relationships floundered. When I focus on love, abundance flowed. 🙂

  10. Wow. Super good read. Money is such an emotional topic for many. I wish more people would look at it from your articles standpoint.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Thank you so much Doran – for the visit and for your kind words. 🙂

  11. I remember I read somewhere says “Don’t work for money, let money work for you.” and that has been my mantra for a long time.
    Mhaan A. recently posted…Basic MakeUp Workshop by Julia SaycoMy Profile

    1. Ms Claudette

      That is a great mantra to have Mhaan! 🙂

  12. I think in our society these day’s focus quite a bit on money and who has the most things. I think what is important is how we can come back and focus on our family and ourselves.

    1. Ms Claudette

      We really have taken our eyes off what really matters for real Amber. 🙂

  13. Money really is at the root of a lot of issues. You can either have too little and stress out about getting enough to survive or you have enough but have an unhealthy relationship with it.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Is it the money that is the root or is it the love of it that is the “problem?” Thanks for stopping by either way Tiffany. 🙂

  14. Love this post! Money can be a problem and it can really damage a relationship if we don’t create good habits with our partners it’s a great and truthful perspective to take under consideration

    1. Ms Claudette

      You are right on the money there Amy! 🙂

  15. There is definitely too much focus on money in my opinion – and things! I’ve been trying to simplify my life and only buy and keep what I need. I think the competition to “keep up with the Jones’s” can cause a lot of unnecessary anxiety in people.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Oh Shaylee, it most certainly causes anxiety and more! 🙁 Like you, I have simplified my life as well and I am loving it. 🙂

  16. Great post! There is so much focus on money and material things these days.

    1. Ms Claudette

      There indeed is!

  17. Lexie Lane

    Money is one of the most important in our lives, but in other side we shouldn’t take our faith to the Money. This is such a great post.

  18. I don’t know the entire story of Martha Stewart, but from the bits and pieces I paid attention to, it seems to me that she was scape-goated for an act that many people do — especially men in the “market.” I’m not condoning her acts, nor do I condemn her. But that’s not really what you are talking about. I hold money in high regard. Having money makes life a lot easier and enables a person to “spread the wealth” by being of larger service to others.
    Interesting topic you raise here. Thanks.
    Carol Makowski recently posted…Life Is Like A Kaleidoscope | What Motivates You?My Profile

    1. Ms Claudette

      Very insightful Carol! I love what you said about appreciating having money. Many do not and have an very unhealthy relationship with money and those who have it. Thanks for the visit. 🙂

  19. There is a lot to admire about Martha Stewart. This is a nice post

    1. Ms Claudette

      Indeed there is, I am sure. 🙂

  20. Great post Claudette. My mum always says to me money can’t always buy you happiness. Thanks for sharing 🙂
    Stephanie D’Laroy recently posted…World’s Greatest Shave 2016 With Stephanie D’Laroy | Leukaemia Foundation’s World’s Greatest Shave 2016My Profile

    1. Ms Claudette

      Thank you and your mother was so right! 🙂

  21. Debbie Denny

    It really is surprising how many people with money are so very unhappy.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Well they simply prove the point that money does not guarantee happiness. 🙁

  22. When you have no money you think that happiness is brought but you will come to realize that is not true. So many rich people are deeply unhappy.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Isn’t that the truth Ana? Money does not guarantee happiness and many celebrities demonstrate that fact to us. 🙂

  23. Elizabeth O.

    That’s a very good insight. I hate talking about money, but it’s a real issue in most families. I’d like to try to think that I handle money well. And I don’t really mind not being filthy reach so long as I have something to pay for the bills and a little extra for emergencies.

    1. Ms Claudette

      I hear you on not minding the fact that you are not filthy rich – as with that comes its own set of challenges. Thanks for visiting as always Elizabeth. 🙂

  24. The relationship people have with money affects different parts of their lives. They need to work on making it a healthy one.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Yes, a healthy relationship with money is along the path to leading a happy life. Thanks for that Lana! 🙂

  25. I don’t know much about Marta Stuart and I don’t watch her show, so I can’t add nothing, sorry. But the question is what relationship we have with money? For me it is a great tool that helps to pay for my basic needs, savings for the future, investing in education.Unfortunately life costs money

    1. Ms Claudette

      Well, you don’t have to know about Martha Stewart as the point of the post is our relationship with money. You got that and you are spot on, in my view, with your comment. Thanks for that Eugenia! 🙂

  26. Money does not bring happiness. We need to not make money a god

    1. Ms Claudette

      You are correct in my view Tara, however not everyone will agree. 🙁

  27. I wondered what happened to Martha Stewart…and I didnt know enough t judge or celebrate her incarceration or feel her pain. That said I do feel your confusion as I went through the same for years. We were told to now want money, that rich people are mean and cheats, that rich people are usually thieves and drug dealers, we saw adults look with envy at those blessed with more yet look to them for support when things were hard…It was a confusing life and one that conditioned us to NEED money but despise having lots. Mentaly thats all kinds of messed up. Money in itself is an amazing tool or resource that gets many their daily needs covered…how we get it is what matters. The emotion we attach to it is what attracts or repels our acquiring more and joining those with more. we overlook the fact that The bible does say that ” To whom much is given, much is expected” and we point fingers…we never once imagine the weight they carry to keep many fed, housed, alive and kicking with that monthly paycheck…i cold go on. I love what money can do for my community, family and self…I know i am meant to have lots of it 🙂
    Julie Syl Kalungi recently posted…Personal and Brand Online Reputation Management in 6 Steps!My Profile

    1. Ms Claudette

      That was the key to my changing my relationship with money – checking the emotion that I am experiencing every time I opened my bank account, went shopping, look at an expensive item, etc. That helped me a lot, Julie. Thanks for the detailed comment. 🙂

  28. Robin Rue (@massholemommy)

    I don’t know anything about Martha other than she is a goddess in the kitchen. I love her show and all of her recipes.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Yup, she is all that and more but this is more about how to handle money – our relationship with it.

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