A Course in Miracles student wondered in a Course meeting whether he should remind a big hotel chain that they had not yet invoiced him for a recent expensive stay. Perhaps, he said, this sum is a gift from God. It is not as if he stole the money or committed some fraud; it was the hotel’s mistake for forgetting to do their paperwork. And who needed the money more; my poor friend or the big rich international hotel chain?
It was interesting to see the different reaction of people in the meeting. Some thought he should keep quiet about the omission and keep the money, while others that he should tell the hotel about the oversight.
As this goes to the principles that can guide our actions as students of the Course, I thought it worth exploring what the Course says about such things. In other words, what does the Course say about the old chestnut of “rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”?
Perhaps you even think that there are laws which set forth what is God’s and what is yours. Many “religions” have been based on this. They would not save but damn in Heaven’s name. Yet they are no more strange than other laws you hold must be obeyed to make you safe. There are no laws but God’s. W-pI.76.8:4–9:1
This clearly puts an end to the interpretation that we can separate out what is God’s and what is of the world. There are only the laws of God. If we believe we are bound by “worldly” laws then we believe that God – as well as us – is subservient to those.
In typical fashion the Course turns the issue of cost and price on its head:
If paying is equated with getting, you will set the price low but demand a high return. But you will have forgotten that to price is to value, so that your return is in proportion to your judgment of worth.
If paying is associated with giving, it cannot be perceived as loss, and the reciprocal relationship of giving and receiving will be recognized. The price will then be set high, because of the value of the return. To price for getting is to lose sight of value, making it inevitable that you will not value what you receive. Valuing it little, you will not appreciate it and you will not want it. Never forget, then, that you have set the value on what you receive, and have priced it by what you give. T-9.II.10:7-11:5
Although this text was referring to the price we pay for judgement, it provides clues on how to look at all giving and receiving. This may seem hard to understand because we are so wedded to thinking that if we give something away we have lost it (giving as losing). The Course repeatedly empathises that giving and receiving are the same. The passage means, therefore, that we are to think of the value we place on what we receive, and therefore to give without concern for cost (giving as receiving). As the world reflects our beliefs, it does matter what value we place on money (the cost), we can expect to receive the same value that we put on the gift.
In Psychotherapy: Purpose, Process and Practice, the question of how we should treat money is discussed explicitly.
It is … part of [God’s] plan that everything in this world be used by the Holy Spirit to help in carrying out the plan. Even an advanced therapist has some earthly needs while he is here. Should he need money it will be given him, not in payment, but to help him better serve the plan. Money is not evil. It is nothing.
There is a difference between payment and cost. To give money where God’s plan allots it has no cost. To withhold it from where it rightfully belongs has enormous cost. P-3.III.1:1-6 & P-3.III.2:6-8
So whether we pay or not has enormous significance! Withholding giving means we have valued the money (the cost) more than God’s plan (the healing of our mind). To know whether or not to pay requires one to know God’s plan and how the payment fits into it. And only the Holy Spirit knows those. Decide on our own and we risk making an enormous mistake.
Lesson 187 explores how we bless the world.
Protect all things you value by the act of giving them away, and you are sure that you will never lose them. What you thought you did not have is thereby proven yours. Yet value not its form. For this will change and grow unrecognizable in time, however much you try to keep it safe. No form endures. To value form is but to worship death. It is the thought behind the form of things that lives unchangeable. W-pI.187.4
It is clear here that the money (the form) is not important; after all it can’t help but change over time. The value is our thought. Protect your abundance by giving it away and you will continue to receive abundance, because it is the thought (or belief) that sets the value. Holding it to ourselves in case it runs out, limits what we have. Scarcity thoughts restrict what we receive.
However, lesson 187 also tells us that while we may give money away, the abundance we receive back may not be in the form of money. We should not be concerned about the form, as that is focussing on the cost and not the value.
So, when it comes to money, once again the Course is asking us to become aware of our thoughts (beliefs and judgements) because they determine our experience. The Course is not saying that we should give all our money to the next person we meet. But it is saying that we should rethink the “paying the cost for a return” formula, and replace it with “give without counting the cost so we can receive in abundance”.
Give gladly. You can only gain thereby. W-pI.187.5:1
So, going back to my friend and his un-submitted hotel bill, according to the Course, he should first ask the Holy Spirit. And if he receives a clear answer act on it. (It is interesting to note that no one in the meeting, including myself, appeared to ask for guidance.) If he doesn’t hear clearly or if he is in any doubt, he can cheerfully pay his bill because the Course reassures us that it is his own interest to give and not count the cost.