For many years my wife and I struggled financially. Sometimes we didn’t have enough money to buy groceries. We could have become depressed, or resentful of others who had more than us. However, we survived these challenges with the help of the ancient wisdom of Judaism.
Our situation was not unique. Today the cost of living is very high. Every week I hear people complain about the high cost of housing, health insurance, and education. Others tell me how challenging it is to find a good job with a secure and promising future. The pursuit of success and wealth has become a maddening race and competition. Additionally, many people have told me that they are resentful at others who pass them by in their pursuit of financial success.
Now I can let you in on my secret to pursuing wealth without resentment, which I discovered in the ancient wisdom of Judaism. Two insights helped me, and they can help you as well, and serve as lessons for life.
Whenever we become resentful of what someone else has, it is essential to recognize that what they have doesn’t diminish what is available to us. This idea was difficult for me to grasp until I adapted a lesson of the sages into a meditation.
Imagine the first person to discover fire and light a torch in a dark cave. He basks in his discovery and doesn’t want to share it with anyone out of fear that it will diminish his flame. He fails to recognize that no matter how many people “borrow” his fire to light their torches, his flame will not be diminished. In fact, the opposite will happen: collectively they will produce more illumination than they ever imagined.
I once asked an extremely wealthy businessman the secret to his success. In addition to hard work, he told me that he always shares his wealth with those who are less fortunate than him. Amazingly, he said he never lost anything by giving charity.
Giving away a portion of our hard-earned money to help others reminds us that there is plenty to go around, and to trust in a higher power. When my wife and I couldn’t make ends meet we took a counter intuitive approach and gave some money to charity. Somehow, we always “miraculously” found the money to pay our bills. This worked because when you believe that making a living depends solely on your efforts, God says, “you’re on your own.” However, if you make God your partner by giving charity to the needy, He assists you in your time of need. I have witnessed this many times.
The second ancient insight has helped countless people put wealth in perspective. “Who is wealthy? The person who appreciates and is happy with what they have.”
One of the wealthiest individuals I know confided in me that despite his wealth he was very depressed. When I asked him to list his most precious possessions, he neglected to mention his children. I pointed out that he was mistakenly defining his happiness by material possessions, which don’t last forever. I recommended that he refocus his attention on his family, his real legacy. He did, and his depression disappeared.
Approaching wealth according to these ancient insights can transform sadness into joy, increase self-esteem and earn you the respect of others.