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Money and the Meaning of Life

By Jacob Needleman

*A Book Review*

by Michael C. Gray

© 2011 by Michael C. Gray

“For what shall it profit a man, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8: 36.)

As human beings, we wrestle with the different aspects of our nature. We want to be more spiritual, but also have to deal with the necessities of living. We are flesh and spirit.

Money is everywhere present in our thoughts to provide for our material needs. In the American culture, it appears we worship money. We respect and idolize those who have it because it is the symbol of power, security and success.

Jacob Needleman is a Professor who teaches Philosophy and Comparative Religion classes at San Francisco State University. Professor Needleman also gives seminars for financial professionals and affluent individuals to explore the role of money in our lives and the meaning of our lives.

This book is a meditation framed as one of Professor Needleman’s seminars, followed by a discussion of ideas after the seminar by two of the participants, a “frustrated artist” CPA /financial advisor and a lawyer who has inherited substantial wealth, with Professor Needleman.

According to Professor Needleman, successful living requires that we acknowledge that we are spiritual beings with material needs, living in a material world. God created the devil, demons and hell in addition to heaven and earth, and each has its place and a function to serve.

In the seminar, he tells an apocryphal tale of Solomon. Solomon, the wisest, richest and most powerful of the Hebrew kings, who walks between symbols of the spiritual and the material forces on the steps to his throne, is banished from Israel by Asmodeus, the king of the demons. Asmodeus takes Solomon’s appearance and his throne in his absence. Solomon’s sacred ring of power is thrown by Asmodeus into the sea.

Eventually, Solomon recovers the ring in a fish, and returns to Israel to reclaim his throne and drive off Asmodeus. The reason Solomon is able to do this is the ring establishes his true identity as the King of Israel.

Our task as human beings is to discover our true selves while living human lives, to give more of ourselves to others and contribute something to the world. According to John 17, we should be “in the world, but not of the world”.

As Zig Ziglar and others have said, “It’s OK to have the money, as long as the money doesn’t have you.”

The questions Professor Needleman asks are worthwhile to explore. I recommend that you read Money and the Meaning of Life.

Buy it on Amazon: Money and the Meaning of Life.

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How should we balance money and spiritual growth? Jacob Needleman acknowledges the necessity of money in his book, Money and the Meaning of Life.


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