How to Get Rich Spiritually: Is it Quality or Quantity?
How can you get rich? Normally, you would think you need more of something, more money, more cars, more high heels.
But what matters when it comes to our spiritual connections, our service to God and others, our stewardship of the earth, and the care of our own souls? Do we need more of something or do we need better? Is it about endless chanting, endless prayers, litanies, liturgies, hours of meditation, one book of wisdom after another, spiritual practice piled upon spiritual practice until we build our own teetering tower of super-faith?
Or is it something simpler — something achievable, maybe? How can you get rich spiritually, here, in the midst of a very busy, broken, stressed-out world?
Does God Want More from Us?
George MacDonald was a writer and Christian minister who said, among other things, that “It is our best work that God wants, not the dregs of our exhaustion. I think he must prefer quality to quantity.” His sentiment was echoed some 50 years later by Gandhi: “It is the quality of our work which will please God and not the quantity.”
Jesus’s act of feeding thousands of people with a small lunch of bread and fish reinforces this concept: less is enough in the right hands, used in the right way. In fact, less can be more powerful, more potent.
Think of Moses up on Mount Sinai asking God’s name and God’s very short reply: “I am that I am.” Here is a chance for God to provide some explanation and definition, a chance for Moses to expound upon the very nature of the divine. And what do we get? Five very memorable words. That’s it. But that’s explanation enough.
Why Do We Pursue More?
Where does more of something leave us? We like to have explanations, so that we can understand. We want order. We want to categorize. We want to “get” it.
But a spiritual journey — a true spiritual seeking — is as much about not getting it and being okay with that, as it is about anything else. As writer and musician Amy Sundberg puts it, our issue with quantity versus quality is often one of feeling in control versus taking risks:
Quantity is easy for somebody like me who has determination, self discipline, and organizational skills in spades. Quality, on the other hand, is a bit more mystical because it depends on stuff you can’t measure in numbers. It depends on taking risks. It doesn’t always conform to plan. It could end in spectacular failure instead of middling mediocrity. So for me, I need to put a lot more focus on quality to get myself in balance.
Quantity, in other words, is about proving ourselves. We can pray all day. We can give more. We can do more good things. We can serve, save, and sing until we feel like we have achieved something.
“Surely this must be enough,” we think. “Surely I have done enough, now.”
Learning to Accept Less
The Prophet Muhammed taught that “it is not a sixth or a tenth of a man’s devotion which is acceptable to God, but only such portions thereof as he offereth with understanding and true devotional spirit.”
The Buddha taught that the value of something is not an amount but a trait. “Better than a thousand hollow words,” he said, “is one word that brings peace.”
“Peace, be still,” Jesus said to calm a storm. In Aramaic, only two words.
A common theme in all religions is that more is not the answer. Perhaps there is a universal understanding that we are limited people. More is a quest to achieve, a drive to prove our worth. True spiritual depth and growth require something quieter. A sense of humility. An awareness of our own limits, and a trust that as we rest in them we rest in the divine.
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