As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and more!

Spirituality and Money: Turning, Reconnecting and Giving

This article was written by in Spirituality. 13 comments.

This article is written by Consumerism Commentary’s columnist, Ellen Cooper-Davis. Ellen’s column will look at the role of spirituality within the context of personal finance. For an introduction to this column, see Ellen’s first article, The Pastor and the Purse. Your feedback is welcome.

In the Jewish tradition, we are in the midst of the season known as the High Holy Days, in which people engage in deep introspection and self-reflection in preparation for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.

First, there is teshuvah, usually translated as repentance or turning. But Hebrew words are delightfully nuanced–this can be thought of as stopping in your tracks and turning around. Jewish tradition teaches that we need not be identified by our habits–they can be changed. I need not feel shame and guilt about a particular spending habit. I can choose to change it. I need not think of myself as “bad with money” because I have not yet learned to manage it well. I can choose to educate myself. The invitation in this turning is to reflect on where we have not lived up to being our best selves (is my spending in line with my values?), and make a commitment to more integrity.

Fall FoliageThere is also tefilah, or prayer. In my own Unitarian Universalist tradition, not all people believe in God. So we understand prayer or meditation to be an intentional time of reconnection between the individual, and that which is greater than the self. That can be a Higher Power, God, the Universe, or humanity. When we reaffirm our fundamental connectedness, we can make choices reflective of the reality of how interconnected we all are. We might explore socially responsible investing, or fair trade products, or participate in microlending, or support local business first. When we remember our connectedness, we more easily shift from thinking of “me” to thinking of “we.”

Finally, there is tzedakah, or good deeds, most especially, charity. In economic times like this, we might feel the impulse to reduce our generosity and giving, to hoard, to give in to a mentality of scarcity. But if we are relatively comfortable in our lives, then giving to those who are truly struggling is even more necessary. There is a growing body of research that links financial generosity and giving to an increase in happiness in the giver’s life, as well. When we are kind to others, we also benefit.

You may not be Jewish, or even religious. In my tradition, we understand all the world’s faiths to contain wisdom that can help us be compassionate, wise, loving, moral people. As we enter autumn, a season of change, I invite you to reflect on your spending and saving habits. Where we see things we wish to change, we can know that we have the ability to move toward being the people we wish to be.

Where is your money life not as in line with your values as it could be? What change might you invite? How does your use of money reflect your sense of connection to that which is larger than the self? What stands between you and greater generosity?

Editor’s note: See the “About the Author” section below to learn more about the author, Ellen Cooper-Davis. Ellen’s column appears about monthly on Consumerism Commentary.


Updated June 24, 2016 and originally published October 1, 2011.

Email Email Print Print
About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

We are simply the sum of our habits, some good, and some bad! So yes, our habits can easily be changed, and our bad habits replaced with those which are good.

Reply to this comment

avatar 2 Ceecee

I try to focus on buying habits that are good for the earth—-not overbuying, recycling and fixing things. That being said, one can always do better.

Reply to this comment

avatar 3 Anonymous

I always have such a hard time with giving. I know I don’t do enough, and I pretty consistently make the excuse that I’m worried that if I give money it won’t be spent well. It’s strange, but I definitely feel like breaking through into another level of success will require me to give more. Inspirational post. Thanks!

Reply to this comment

avatar 4 lynn

I know how you feel. I overcame this thought process by 1. Donating items (food) 2. Donating to a family (childhood cancer stricken) and not caring how the money is used. These families have so many needs (even a video becomes a need) that the money I give will go to a good thing.

Reply to this comment

avatar 5 Anonymous

Those are some thought provoking questions there. We all could stand to give more–I know I could. God convicted me of that lately. I also enjoyed learning some more about Jewish tradition. All Christians should be Messianic Jews! :)

Reply to this comment

avatar 6 qixx

Where i struggle the most is giving of my time and talents. For me giving money is the easy part. Giving of myself is not. Balancing those aspects of giving might be the change i should focus on.

Reply to this comment

avatar 7 shellye

I totally agree – it’s so much easier to write a check than it is to volunteer your time. I can always find reasons why I don’t have time to give to a worthy cause. But that’s an important part of giving that I need to work on.

Reply to this comment

avatar 8 lynn

I struggled with this for quite a while. Raising 4 children and chronic illness in our home didn’t leave much to give. So I began donating clothes and not deducting the costs on income tax returns. The amount of clothing that came back to me was astronomical. Most of it was used and the remainder was donated. Holy Tamoly, more came our way! Now I donate food. This article reminded me that I need to step that one up.

Reply to this comment

avatar 9 Anonymous

I think we all have to consistently evaluate whether our habits with money are true to what we believe. I think most people believe that being in debt is not something that they want, but they do it anyway, creating imbalance and bondage in their life that holds them back in many ways, including spiritually.

I teach participants in my “Celebrating Financial Freedom” home study course that your money and your
spirit are very intimately linked and that when your money habits are out of whack, the rest of your life is too. How we use our money not only affect us and our family but the world as a whole. The better money habits create for ourselves changes the world for the better, every time.

“When you help me with money, you help the world prosper”- J.M. DuMont

Reply to this comment

avatar 10 lynn

The good doctor’s prescription will bring people back to health. I’m going to check into the course (right now) and see if my church is interested in it.

Reply to this comment

avatar 11 Anonymous

Thanks Lynn, I GREATLY appreciate it!

Reply to this comment

avatar 12 lynn

I couldn’t find a course, only topics that were on the lower scale of interest. Do you have a link to the program?

Reply to this comment

avatar 13 Anonymous

The info for the course can be found on my site at this page:

If you have any questions or need any additional info you can contact me at [email protected] or just leave a reply to this comment.
Thanks Lynn

Reply to this comment

Leave a Comment

Note: Use your name or a unique handle, not the name of a website or business. No deep links or business URLs are allowed. Spam, including promotional linking to a company website, will be deleted. By submitting your comment you are agreeing to these terms and conditions.