Tuesday, May 05, 2009

More Money, More Faith?

I got started on this post quite a few days ago when I read this terrific piece by Amrita, but with one thing and another, blogging took a backseat and I couldn't complete it with the same steam that I had begun. I also needed time to think, to do a little introspection and get my thoughts in order. I feel very passionately on these subjects and can be very vocal on them, so some distance was needed if I wanted to produce a coherent post. Hopefully, I've succeeded.

My first instinct right after reading Amrita's post was to rant about how people needlessly fritter small fortunes away on flowers, garlands, fireworks and other frivolities.

Does He really need them? In the grand scheme of things, what are a few flowers offered at any one place of worship when you compare it to the vast variety He Himself has created? And fireworks ..... the lakhs and lakhs spent on them! One explosion of sound, a few seconds worth of flash and glitter and poof! Its over. How does that match up to the unimaginable wonders that exist in His universe - the stars, the shooting stars, planets, comets, galaxies that have endured since beyond our comprehension?

But then a small voice in my head said: Don't I like attending mass in a clean church with fresh flowers and candles at the altar? Don't I appreciate the paintings, sculptures and other ornaments that adorn the interiors? Don't I get excited to see the extra lights and decorations at festivals? Don't I watch fireworks displays as enthralled as any child?

What about in my home itself? Don't I like to have a well-decorated altar? Don't I light candles and place flowers there? Don't I like to jazz up my home during festivals? Christ was born in a shabby little manger and there were definitely no sparkling lights, no shiny decorations around at that time ..... so why do I bother with them at Christmas?

Now let's move outside to the buildings themselves. Don't I pause to ooh and aah over a beautifully built church / temple / mosque or any other place of worship? The more exquisite the architecture and the embellishments, the more money involved in its construction. But as I gaze at them in awestruck wonder, do I care about how much it would have cost? Even if my thoughts turn to money, do I begrudge it, do I think it a waste? No ....... its for God, I'd say.

But can any human creation possibly compare to His creation???

So then why do we do it?

These things are a token of our faith, our humble efforts to honour God. I emphasize 'humble' because again, in comparison with His works, anything we do is just that - humble. And more importantly, these are mere tokens; they cannot be the sum & substance of our faith.

Many priests whose sermons I've had the privilege of hearing, constantly stressed the need to go beyond mere ritualism and tokenism and actually live our faith. This simply meant keeping the ideals of love, service and forgiveness paramount in all aspects of life, something I believe all the great religions of this world preach.

But sadly, many people seem to believe that the more money they spend on religious activities, the more God will be pleased with them. Its far, far easier to hand out some notes or write a cheque than it is to practice "love, service and forgiveness" in the daily grind of life. But ultimately, it isn't how much you have, but how you live your life that matters.

Its not that we shouldn't spend money at all on our religious functions; just as long as we remember that whatever we do, we do it to glorify Him, not to glorify ourselves. And as we spend, I think we should also remember that we are duty-bound to help those in need. There has to be a balance between celebrations, donations and trying to live our daily lives by His word for faith and worship to be truly meaningful.


  1. Wow! Shalom, that was a beautiful post! speechless! And I think the last few lines summed it up beautifully..

    ' just as long as we remember that whatever we do, we do it to glorify Him, not to glorify ourselves. And as we spend, I think we should also remember that we are duty-bound to help those in need' I think we tend to forget it ... Wonderful post!

  2. I agree with you completely shalom. Balance is the key and i believe with that, comes the wowness. over indulgence does have a tainted color and though the initial flash might blind ones eyesight, the ugliness comes through.
    'More' is again subjective. what is more for one, is less for another. But, Faith is constant. either you have it or you don't!

  3. Wonderful post !! and your last lines sum it up so well.
    My two cents.....I feel whatevr we do for god, we do it to show our gratitude for his magnamity, for giving us so much, and nothing we do can be more or enough.
    If we want to be frugal, we must be in our life style.
    If for everything we start thinking that..instead of spending here we can give this much to some poor people or for some charity...we would have any beautiful place, buildings or anything else, and life will have no charm or enjoyment.
    One must nevr confuse or mix good intentions with one's life style.

  4. :)Completely agree with the fact that we celebrate Him, when we make grand arrangement.. but in the grandeur we should never forget that doing good is truly serving him...
    As you sum it.. there should be a balance..

  5. Beautiful Post Shalom!!!!!!!

    A valid point every atheist uses to his advantage .

    In my case, I always remember tht scene in the Bible where the woman rubs expensive ointment on Jesus's feet, the Judas talking abt the sheer waste of it & Jesus's answer to that.

    I believe nothing we do is less for Him as long as we do it with Humility & Worship in our hearts.

  6. "There has to be a balance between celebrations, donations and trying to live our daily lives by His word for faith and worship to be truly meaningful."


  7. Smitha - thank you :) Yeah, when you're immersed in the hustle & bustle of life, its very easy to forget you've duties beyond your immediate family....a little reminder is nice & necessary every now & then.

    A - and I agree completely with you!!! I'm going 'wow' over what you've written!

    Renu - exactly! Each one of us can only give what is within our means & then its like what A has written - what is more for one is less for another. The point I wanted to make is that it doesn't matter how much we spend coz He doesn't judge us on our bank balance....its our attitudes & deeds in our life that matter more. Then like you've said, whatever we offer Him is to show gratitude, not to show off to others.

    Amrita - absolutely, coz it is undeniably fun to celebrate & some grandeur is nice once in a while, but the main focus should always be on how you live your life.

    Reflections - Humility!!! That is how worship should be! What seriously annoys me is the arrogance of some people. They think, ok I've spent so much money for xyz religious function, that puts me above others and God should also be happy with this amount.....like its some sort of business deal!