Money is a power that we have given disproportionate influence in our lives. One of the ways that some people -- Pagans and others -- try to deal with that is through voluntary poverty, avoiding the stuff entirely, or as much as possible. It's a choice that is controversial and poorly understood, and its impact isn't entirely clear. As part of my money ministry, I'm trying to wrap my head around the many ways we can relate to it, including its rejection.
One thing that has become apparent to me is that there are limits on how much one can change through voluntary poverty or other money-avoidance schemes, such as simplicity and joining an intentional community which doesn't use it internally. That limit is explained nicely by Lynne Twist in her book, The Soul of Money. In the first chapter, Twist tells the tale of Chumpi Washikiat, a member of the Achuar people of the Amazon, who has been designated by his community to go out into the world and learn about money. He moved into the author's home in the United States to do so. Twist writes,
"His education about money was more on the level of inhaling. Everywhere he went, the language and meaning of money filled the air, from billboards, advertisements, and commercials, to price cards on muffins at the local bakery. In conversations with other students he learned about their hopes, dreams, and prospects for life after graduation, or as they put it, 'life in the real world' -- the money world. He began to see how it is in America: that virtually everything in our lives and every choice we make -- the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the houses we live in, the schools we attend, the word we do, the futures we dream, whether we marry or not, or have children or not, even matters of love -- everything is influenced by this thing called money."