In this episode of The Missing Conversation, Robert is joined by his friend and co-founder at The Global Bridge Foundation, and Mark Spiro from Trash Prophets, a recycling initiative that gives purpose and job opportunities to the homeless. The two of them join him as he continues to explore how a more transparent relationship with money could lead us to help each other and humanity at large — this time with a focus on the Christian faith.
Like Buddhist teachers, most Christian ministers and leaders of faith have not revealed to their congregation their development or thought about their specific relationship with money, and how that would help our world that so badly needs it. Without the example from their teachers, pastors, and priests, Christian followers have been unable to reconcile with what the Bible teaches — that their true wealth awaits them in heaven, and that money on earth is here to be used for balance. But instead of being grateful and sharing, as Jesus taught us to, almost all of us that have had the opportunity have been collecting our wealth for our future, while those in our community still need help.
Robert and Mark also share how the film Brother Sun, Sister Moon — a narrative about the life of St Francis of Assisi, encourages us, especially the leaders of true Christians to introspect about their relationship with money and the transparency around their individual attachments.
Jesus’s example inspires the call for a renewed sense of understanding and a change in our attitudes, actions, and values when it comes to money. If Christian teachers and religious leaders took the first step and were more open, honest, and vulnerable, it would likely lead to more transparency and understanding. We also need to talk about and understand how Jesus would have wanted us to deal with money and wealth — would he not have wanted us to help our fellow humans, and the planet on which we live? If he were the CEO of a million-dollar company, how would he run his business, and how much would he give to the less fortunate?
There is a growing canyon of discrepancy in the richest and poorest in our world. Yet, once you gain even a fleeting awareness of this distance, it may lead to a deeper, more fulfilling kind of awareness and understanding. It may well foster a longing to give , moving toward healing and helping others heal. It could encourage you to share your good fortunes and empower those who need it with not just money but opportunities to work and develop their lives and harness their potential. This could open doors towards blessings and feeling reconnected with humanity as a whole.
Whether it’s encouraging followers to give a percentage of what they earn and contemplate where it would be most meaningful to them, or it’s openly exploring how attached we have become to our wealth and money, Christian ministers could genuinely make a difference through their sermons and practice — using part of the wisdom that Jesus would have done if he were still here on Earth.
Mentioned in this episode
The Global Bridge Foundation
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The Missing Conversation, Episode 37.
Robert Strock: (00:04)
This is about reaching a place in our hearts or our souls, where we do feel some connection beyond our kids and our friends.
On this podcast, we will propose critical new strategies to address world issues, including homelessness, immigration, amongst several others, and making a connection to how our individual psychology contributes and can help transform the dangers that we face. We will break from traditional thinking, as we look at our challenges from a freer and more independent point of view. Your host Robert Strock has had 45 years of experience as a psychotherapist, author, and humanitarian, and has developed a unique approach to communication, contemplation and inquiry born from working on his own challenges.
Robert Strock: (00:56)
So, thank you again for joining us with The Missing Conversation. Great to have you here, where we address the most pressing issues that the world’s facing today and where we’ve looked for the most practical, inspiring programs and innovative ideas to support a greater chance for survival of our planet. Today, we’re going to shift our focus to the Christian traditions and how they like the Buddhist traditions really have not dealt centrally with the issues of money. And that goes for not only the Christian leaders, but also the many followers throughout the world. And we’re also going to stay focused on the importance of the ministers, the priests, all kinds of Christian leaders, sharing their own personal stories, relationship to money, and how important that could be. And as we talked about in the last episode, how many trillions of dollars that could be, if only a percentage like tithing 10, 15% were going toward the world and toward the poor. And that doesn’t mean giving money to the poor, that means giving opportunities to the poor so they can prove they’re every bit as much a human being with potential as our way. So, I’d like to start out today by introducing two people. First is Dave, my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation and forever long friend.
Thank you. Um, this transition from the last episodes on Buddhism, uh, in the way they deal with money to Christianity. And what I know you will talk about in the, in historically such a different, such a different take, uh, is something I really, really want to discuss in here, here you talk about . . .
Robert Strock: (03:24)
And then secondly, our engineer, who’s much more than our engineer. He’s also running a homeless program is very likely to join us today, Mark. And it’s really a pleasure, and it’s always been an honor to have you be a engineer/slash homeless leader and not in the wealthy crowd as well, which is even a bit more impressive.
Thank you, Robert, you know not in the wealthy crowd, perhaps that’s God’s will, who knows, you know, that’s the trick, that’s the trick you’re talking about. Here you go.
Robert Strock: (04:06)
So, I’m going to start today’s episode with a Christian minister. Who’s also a good friend of mine, and he has had enormous success in multiple fields. And he really is someone where we’ve had 15 conversations at least about what Jesus would prefer, what, what his teachings are. And so, we’re going to really go through that a bit to try to really get clearer what Jesus would prefer.
Robert Strock: (04:54)
So, he and his businesses, which are plentiful, actually runs them and says, how would Jesus run this business? He has an extraordinary relationship to integrating the essence of Jesus and Jesus as a CEO, which is really disorienting to the population that he’s teaching. So, he’s a very unusual man. And he at the same time is very wealthy and doesn’t deal as much with his wealth as he does integrate the teachings in the many different ways that his wealth is manifesting to tens of thousands of people. So there are many examples that are complicated, where a part of what is teaching and in his case, I don’t know any, any Christian teacher better than him that has integrated it, literally as I want Jesus to run each of the companies that I’m affiliated with, some of which he’s directly leading, some of which he’s consulting for.
Robert, if you don’t mind, I just, just wanna jump in a bit, um, in the last episode of this episode or, or with the Buddhists and Christians, it’s very difficult for a person like me and I work with homeless people all week, uh, most, every week. And I, and I have my own insecurity or my own wealth insecurity. Uh, I don’t make a lot of money, um, have enough to maybe make it 60 days, maybe 90 days. And I know that I’m part of millions of people that are in the same position as me. And when we talk about a millionaire Buddhist or a $10 million preacher, and actually fantasized that he understood, these people understand, what it’s like to live with nothing. And to, and to quote/unquote, trust God that my needs will be met. If I, if I do God’s will the insanity around that for a homeless person or even a man like me, who, who, who, whose future is way up in the air.
I have no security whatsoever. And to think that a minister or a teacher could, uh, relate to that from the position they’re in, is ludicrous to me and it’s oppressive. And it’s very difficult for a poor man to have a good attitude. And I, and I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna have anybody think that that’s what we’re trying to say, because we’re not, it’s a, it’s a tough place to be in, I think homelessness and, uh, you know, couch surfing, all the things that this society is going through with no money and living paycheck to paycheck that is all about wealth and impression. And I don’t know how to change it, but I can, uh, we can try also, uh, just to know, in, in, in my business Trash Profits, which provides an income for homeless people, even if they work their ass off, they making 37 bucks a day. The fact that we can’t make that better with all the millions of dollars there is available, that, that I still have to go through this to raise a dime is embarrassing. And it’s very difficult to have good attitude when you’re doing these things. Anyway, if you could address that a bit.
Robert Strock: (08:40)
Well, first of all, you’re a rare example of someone that is devoted. I think you understated actually your devotion to your multiple times a week, going into trash cans and getting bottles and cans and working your tail off and now finally being supported with being given vehicles and having a little bit of a class class action for lack of better words.
Let me add $30,000 from a $19 billion company. It’s just awesome.
Robert Strock: (09:17)
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And then that context is really well expressed that to be in a situation where you put, as Jesus said, your treasures on the earth, not in heaven and you’re living in enough faith that you’re still going for it, even though it’s earning you virtually nothing or nothing is the epitome of that pure attitude. And I know you well enough to know that it comes with fears, it comes with insecurities, like you said.
Robert Strock: (10:01)
And so, it’s so important that that portion of the world, which is the larger portion by far realizes that if they can keep an attitude, simulating your attitude, that Jesus was the one that said the meek shall inherit the earth. And, you know, it’s hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. It’s easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Now, those are powerful statements. Those would be ones that would make a Christian Church in general, I think cringe, if they really centered on that, you know. How many Christian churches do we see that, okay, this is the opening today to our sermon. And from my vantage point, it needs to be the opening of a sermon once a year, at least. And there need to be multiple sermons that are dealing with these issues.
Robert Strock: (11:12)
So, we’re going to move into a couple more examples to really highlight that of some very famous preachers. One of them was very famous for, and this is somebody that hundreds of millions of people know, but again, we’re not going to mention names, but for many people they’ll be able to identify it, that he threatened that if he didn’t receive $8 million in three months, God was going to call him home. And that was viewed as normal. And yeah, he got close to that. And there was another one, another very famous evangelist who was famous for red baiting, fear-mongering, anti-Semitic conversation, homophobic nationalism, crony capitalism, and a warmonger, was a friend to overt racist and an ally to wealthy corporations. So, he used his massive religious platform to play kingmaker and was one of the architects of the Nixon presidency and is a patriarch of evangelicalism and the religious right.
Robert Strock: (12:44)
He denied global warming. And was sure the second coming would be the healing. Not any support for Martin Luther king or social justice. Now this entering into this level of politics was clearly an extreme and not meant to be a hiss on Christianity in general, but it is meant to be a very strong statement to how Christianity can go mad, can go insane. As you said Mark, when you’re talking about the insanity of million, millionaires and, and, and really believing that they’re in faith and really believing they’re following the depths of the teaching, when at least a significant portion of that isn’t wanting to be given away or needing to be given away. Forget about guilt, it’s just like, oh man, blessings are coming from me to me, I’m passing them through. And this is not about guilt. This is about reaching a place in our hearts or our souls where we do feel some connection beyond our kids and our friends and this overwhelming.
Robert Strock: (14:17)
And I have to use the words, called like belief that protecting our kids and our families has taken the place of religion. That doesn’t mean we don’t, I’m a father. I want to leave enough for my son to be well off and my grandkids, but I also want to give away the majority of what I have to the world, because I been blessed and I do want to pass on that blessing. And I’m continuously questioning, as I’ve mentioned, I think before I changed my views about money, four times in the last couple of years, and I expect myself to keep changing them as I get older.
Robert Strock: (15:10)
Cause that perspective of don’t I want to really feel more connected. Doesn’t it feel joyous, and there is no sacrifice. And it does require going through our conditioning and looking at what we were taught and seeing hasn’t really made me happy and is this really my best self? Now, if we look at the teachings of Jesus, he was against money being the center of our lives. He was against money being used as the source of security. He wanted our core intentions, he wanted our actions, he wanted our thoughts to be our core sense of security. That, that’s what we take with us is our state of being. Which again, going back to what Mark talked about for all the people that find themselves in life circumstances that were not fortunate, those that are meek, those that keep attitudes of doing the best they can, are really likely to be the ones that are going to go to as, as I will be expressing later. I believe that there’s going to be something equivalent to the kingdom of heaven, but I don’t know anything.
Robert Strock: (16:46)
So, if there is a kingdom of heaven, I’m quite sure they’re gone. So, Jesus believed in giving money to the needy, to the people that needed help. That was his teaching, manage money wisely, be grateful for what you have, but recognize in a certain way, it’s really not yours at one level. Sure, it’s a bit yours, but Jesus would say probably more than I am, it’s not yours. I’m saying, well, maybe a little bit yours, but forgive me for my obcurations or my distortions. So, Jesus would say, put your treasures in God. All money is on loan to us. And when we put our primary faith in money, it’s a lack of faith in, and it supports an obsessive worry about mine and security, when the qualities in our heart and our actions deserve to be in a distant first place. Now, the church’s wealth is a obvious contradiction to Jesus.
Robert Strock: (18:15)
And when I say obvious, it’s obvious that it’s not obvious, too. But from an outside view, when you see all these jewels and, and artist’s drawings and buildings and properties that are owned, let’s say, especially by the Catholic Church, it reminds me of, of the, of the movie, Shoes of the Fishermen, where the Pope went through a complete crisis and he’s, and he realized, oh my God, this is insane. We have to give it away. And tears came to my eyes, you know, when he came to that realization and thinking that, what if, again, like we talked about in the last segments, what if a significant percentage of wealthy Christians gave a real percentage? Not 2%, not 1%, like Mark was talking about, which is a percentage of a percent, but really took it seriously. And in this situation that we’re in right now, it’s not even generous. It’s actually increasing the chances for survival. So, we’re at a time where we bypass generosity and it’s actually sanity. Yes. It hopefully includes some of the wisdom and generosity, but where, we’re at a different level now, where as we’ve covered in so many other episodes that we’re in danger of survival.
Just to throw one more point out there. Um, I think the current, the current addiction and, and climate of money with the haves and the have not, is unsustainable. And if we don’t do what you’re talking about, then the money will be worth nothing.
Robert Strock: (20:28)
Go for it.
It will be worth nothing.
Robert Strock: (20:32)
Just say it.
I did, I’m still recording.
Robert Strock: (20:36)
Oh, oh, Okay.
My point being that if this is an unsustainable canyon between the haves and have-nots, and if it continues that way, I don’t think money would be worth anything because it will, it will all blow up.
Robert Strock: (20:49)
Right. And what you’re saying right now is such an astute view of reality. And unfortunately, you know, for those of you that are familiar with my work with Awareness That Heals, I talk about fleeting awareness, which is an awareness that comes to you in flashes. But you can’t hold onto it because if you did, you’d feel too conflictual, depressed, anxious, guilty, or maybe it would be too risky because you, you realize you could be happier and you’re not ready to take the risk. That unfortunately the vast majority of people that have money, aren’t even having fleeting awareness of what you’re talking about. And the point of this podcast is to hopefully, not only enter fleeting awareness, but enter an awareness that can move us toward intention and toward healing, that touches a place in our hearts that like you Mark wants to give.
Robert Strock: (21:59)
And like you Dave wants to give, and it’s not a sacrifice at all. I don’t even really feel generosity is the right word because the right word is blessings or, uh, rewards, connectedness, filling in the emptiness, joy, gratitude. Those would be the right words. I believe Christian Churches would do well and there may be some that do that I don’t know about. I hope there are, if they had a weekly group, asking about the challenges regarding money and wealth and what are their impulses, what are the feelings? Do they feel balanced and have the mixture of the haves and the have nots that would be sharing with each other. That would be wonderful. How strong are your feelings when you don’t have anything and you’re struggling and somebody else right on the other side of your circle is saying, well, I don’t really want to donate more than $10 when they’re, they could, they could support hundreds of you.
Robert Strock: (23:19)
So, there needs to be help and suggestions to organize a series of counselors, priests, or ministers to lead these groups, hopefully in as many locations as possible. And frankly, I think it would be a great tenant for church to have as a requirement. Now, one of my, actually it is my favorite movie of all the time that conveyed this in such a beautiful way. And it was a story of Saint Francis and granted it was done by Hollywood. So, it was a little bit pretty boy, a little bit pretty girl. So, I forgave that part of it, beautiful love story, but it was a story of St. Francis moving from a wealthy family and throwing the clothes out the window and saying, give it all away. And you know, your riches are in heaven, they’re not here on earth and then gradually built a church. And then when there was a, a murder of one of his innocent creatures, you went to the Pope feeling guilty, like maybe he made a mistake. And going to the Pope and then asking if he’s made a mistake and basically the Pope being humbled. And I won’t tell you any more, cause I want you to watch the movie, but it’s a movie that really shows in an extreme way from today’s world, another Jesus that was incarnated to love, humanity to teach us. And this movie is a great teacher.
One other element I honestly just recently became aware of was St. Francis. And I like you, that that is my all-time favorite movie. And I remember at the beginning of the movie has returned from the crusades and dealing with other people, his contemporaries that had just done the same. What I didn’t know. And this is scholarly articles is that he actually met with an Egyptian Saltan during the crusades. His transformation actually began while he was fighting in, and that return from those crusades, uh, transformed him. Yeah. And the conflict. It’s not just the money. Uh, although the money is certainly as, as Mark has described as is the, are the seeds of conflict, but as the inherent tribalism that he was seeing and trying to cross over, uh, incredible being, um, that he was.
Robert Strock: (26:23)
Yeah, thanks so much for including that it brings tears to my eyes. When I remember him returning from the crusades and being insane overtly and being bedridden and having to be cared for by the nuns. And the father was spouting off about, you know, him being crazy and he had to get back to work. And the problem was that he wasn’t working hard enough. And the insanity is probably what most people, maybe not to the extreme that he went through, because he was obviously a Jesus-like figure, but going through what I might refer to as sort of like a lobotomy, like my God, how was I raised? What bill of goods did I buy and that was not intended to be a bill of goods, but what bill of goods did I buy when I was raised? That’s what college is about. Get me a good education for most people, not for everybody, but for most people.
Robert Strock: (27:38)
Yeah. I had a teacher once that was on the more hippy ascend that used to say, going to college was as bad of an influence as having a naturally mean disposition. And I, and I, I got off on it it was really quite funny. I, I’m not that extreme, but it shows that if you’re really not viewing education as being also for the benefit of humanity, there’s something missing in it. So, coming back to the examples of Christian leaders and I’m coming back to that Christian minister friend of mine, not only really didn’t significantly go into his own wealth, although he did much better, he’s doing much better than most people with doing that, but he had a very hard time caring for his body. And so, when you’re talking, as we want to talk about in this episode about transparency and the importance of that as well, that being able to out that as a minister, as a leader, as somebody who could go to the corporations and say, you know, this is how Jesus would run the company.
Robert Strock: (28:58)
And I’m having a hard time applying that same wisdom to how I take care of my body. So, he’s gone through all kinds of suffering that wouldn’t have been necessary had he been able to be transparent and even more important? Can you think of the thousands of people, if he would have put himself up as an example, but also avoid doctors and go to alternative medicine or no medicine and how important it is not only to deal with these of balancing values and actions and attitudes as being in number one position, but also maybe having number two, position, being transparency, and then hopefully a distant third position being success. And then tying that in with a sense of well-being and a sense of inclusiveness and caring for those that don’t have and giving them opportunities. So, this was very, very meaningful and passionate, and I hope it reaches somewhere inside you where it endures. And thanks for your attention.
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