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What religions say about money

The Bible and the Quran may not be the first books you think of for financial advice, but perhaps they should be, according to Jewish, Christian and Muslim clerics.

For example, American bankruptcy law has its roots in Deuteronomy, which requires a forgiveness of debt.

"Every seventh year you shall grant a remission of debts," Deuteronomy 15:1 reads. "And this is the manner of remission: Every creditor shall remit the claim that is held against a neighbor, not exacting it of a neighbor who is a member of the community, because the Lord's remission has been proclaimed."

The bankruptcy concept made it into the Constitution -- Article I, Section 8, Paragraph 4 -- and the seven-year framework is a direct lift from the Bible.

It's not the only lift, religious leaders say. Maybe that's because there's so much to choose from.

"There are more actual references to money in the Bible than to anything else," says Pastor Kevin Kummer, a campus minister at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Kummer works with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, part of an international evangelical organization.

"I'm sometimes baffled by how we, as Western Christians, read around that, considering the sheer volume of text," he says.

What religions say about money:

Taxes and charity
Tax law rewards charitable giving, as do many religious texts. And our taxes include some monetary support for the poor and disadvantaged, just as many religious texts suggest.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam all encourage charity, though they have different suggested minimums, maximums and philosophies on how to give.

In Judaism, the highest level of charity is to give another person a business, or offer him a job, says Rabbi Avraham Blesofsky of Chabad Lubavitch of Iowa. Chabad is a Chassidic group that has 4,600 rabbis throughout the world.

"The idea is that he should be able to provide for himself eventually," Rabbi Blesofsky says.

The IRS also includes plenty of bonuses for people who start their own small businesses.

Rabbi Blesofsky points out that the Hebrew word for charity, "tzedakah," comes from the word "tzedek."

"The translation is 'righteousness,'" Rabbi Blesofsky explains.

Charity as love or growth
Christianity, according to Pastor Kummer, bases its charity guidelines on the Old Testament and on Jewish law's 10 percent -- or a tithe. But the root of the word is different.

"Charity comes from the Greek word agape, or love, meaning the kind of love God shows for people," Pastor Kummer explains. "It's unconditional."

In Islam, the word for charity -- "zakat" -- means "to grow," says Imam Ali Salman Ali of Muslim Family Services in Detroit. "It means to grow spiritually," Imam Ali says.

"A Muslim should give 2½ percent of his wealth every year," Ali says. This amount is "obligatory charity," he says.

Next: "Money is often recognized as a positive thing."
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