Sunday, 14 October 2012

Money money money



The reading in church today was from Mark 10:17-27.

I’m sure you know the story about the rich man who was told by Jesus to sell everything he had, give it to the poor, and follow Jesus.

The man just could not do this, and went away sad.

Jesus also says that famous saying about it being harder for a rich man to enter Heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.

And people have been debating that hyperbole for years. What did it mean? Did Jesus refer to a gate called Needle, or was it a mountain pass which was so narrow you had to unload your camel of what it was carrying, pass the camel through, and then load it again.

In reality, it doesn’t matter.

What’s important is the message behind the hyperbole and the advice to sell everything and give it to the poor.

Did Jesus mean it?

Here’s my take on it – unorthodox as it may be.

I doubt very much if every rich man on earth sold all their property and gave it to the poor that it would make any difference. It would be like putting a snowflake in a burning furnace.

Anyway, it is not physically possible, since if every rich person sold their property, by implication, they would sell it to someone else who would in turn be rich in order to be able to buy it. I’m sure you follow the tautology.

So what did Jesus mean?

He certainly was not speaking against wealth. Wealth creates wealth. It creates jobs and it creates the wherewithal to help others less fortunate than ourselves.

Christ condones, nay encourages, the creation of wealth in His parable about the servants given a gold coin each by their master. When he returned from his travels the master discovered that two servants managed to make their fortune increase whilst the third just didn’t bother. So he rewards the hard-working servants and punishes the other. Luke 19:11-27.

Jesus was teaching responsible wealth. There’s nothing wrong in working hard and amassing a fortune honestly.

As long as we use it responsibly.

Those who are fortunate to have wealth should remember their responsibility to share it with others, and to help others, as best they can. This doesn’t mean sell everything and give it to the poor. It means be aware of those around you who are less fortunate than yourself; and share your good fortune with them.

If you were to sell everything then once it's gone, it's gone - you can no longer help the poor and you may well become poor yourself. What's so clever about that?

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) Jesus does not condemn the rich man for being rich; but for not even realizing, never mind caring, for a poor man starving at his gate.

So there you have it: work hard, be wealthy, but remember others less well-off than yourself.

And wealth does not necessarily mean riches and money.

Some people are wealthy in different ways: wealthy in wisdom and knowledge, wealthy in health and stamina, wealthy in talents and so on.

Those amongst us who are well educated and knowledgeable should not look down on others haughtily and with disdain. Use your knowledge to teach others.

Those who are fortunate to be healthy should remember the sick and if possible visit them or help them as best they can.

Those with talents for music, the arts, sports or whatever should share their talents with others. Imagine the good you can achieve as a sportsman if you visit a school and share a few moments coaching children in whatever it is you do. Or if a musician or celebrity shared a few moments with less talented yet aspiring youngsters. That visit would be imprinted on young memories for life – and may well inspire them to do better and achieve more.

Let’s all look at ourselves deeply and discover what wealth God has given us.

Money, good health, a talent for music, painting, singing or whatever … and let’s share it for the glory of, and in thanksgiving to, God our Creator.

12 comments:

  1. This is definitely a tough one! So many really fabulous Christians through the ages have given - not sold - but given all their wealth away and then served others with their talent, be it just their tremendous faith. Once upon a time people understood that wealth was not meant to be spent on themselves but if they were blessed to have it it was to share with others. Hedonism doesn't have a place in Christianity. I think, if we really look around, even today, we will find such wonderful souls - "wealthy" people who care for their fellow humans more than having a bigger house or many homes, multiple fabulous cars, etc.
    Really great post!
    Thanks!

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    1. I agree Ann with what you say. I just wonder, if all wealthy people gave all their wealth to the poor, there would still be poverty. And the wealthy people themselves would now become poor.

      Did Christ really mean that when He spoke to the rich man? Did He really want him to give "everything" he had to the poor? What about the rich man's family, dependants, servants and so on. What would happen to them if the rich man gave "everything" away?

      I hope I understood Jesus correctly in what I said in my post. He wanted us to use our wealth responsibly by looking after our fellow man less fortunate than ourselves.

      Our priest in his sermon today said "I hope everyone in town does not give all their wealth away; otherwise we would have a town full of poor people. And what good is that to society?"

      God bless you Ann. Thank you for contributing to a difficult question for us Christians.

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  2. Very inspiring Victor, Thank you!

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  3. Great post, Victor! I agree that it's a difficult one and I wonder if different souls are called to a different response. For some, I think that giving up everything would be a great sign of faith and God would reward them for it. Simply not hoarding wealth might create a poor spirit in another soul. I agree that sharing what we have can be as charitable as giving everything up. I guess that the extent to which we respond must just depend upon God's will for us and our responsibilities.

    Perhaps, the parable of the rich man refers to the state of his soul, rather than his possessions. Some people may need to give up everything to become poor in spirit and others might desire to unburden themselves physically to be completely united to God. A detachment to wealth may allow someone to be poor in spirit, regardless of material wealth, but I think that, for a lot of us, possessions can often be a burden that interferes with spiritual progress.

    Lots of rambling thoughts here, Victor - I enjoyed your post!

    God bless:-)

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    1. That's an interesting way of looking at things Vicky which I must admit had not occured to me. Some people are called upon to give their everything whilst others are called to share their wealth. I like that.

      Thank you for your insight. You're also right that Jesus may have been commenting on the rich man's state of his soul.

      Thank you Vicky for a thought-provoking response.

      God bless you.

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  4. Victor, Great post..I've always thought..well two things:
    1st- the rich young man thought he was doing OK spiritually, but that was his own estimation. It always gives me pause when I read this account to remember that if I approach Jesus on that level, (letting Him know how good I think I'm doing) I'd better be ready to hear the truth about the "one thing" that would really show me where I'm at if I'm challenged to let it go.

    2nd--Ask for the grace and mercy to know what is my "one thing"

    Just my 2 cents..

    Hope you're doing well. +

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  5. Great reflection Caroline. I suppose we all think at one time or another that we are doing OK spiritually. And by examining our conscience Christ makes us see how we truly are.

    God bless you Caroline.

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  6. I never thought of sharing other kinds of wealth besides money. very thought provoking post.

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  7. Thank you Sarah. Some people don't have money and can share other things like their time, kindness, love, caring and so on. Like I know you have done in the past.

    God bless you for your kindness.

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  8. Yes, Christ did mean for the rich young man to sell all of his possessions - not his family's - give to the poor and follow Him. It was an individual call that everyone entering a monastery does even today. Those cloistered Carmelites and Benedictines don't own their own underwear or habits. They belong to the community as do their pens, pencils, sewing needles, prayer books, etc. Very few can answer this call and Jesus won't force it on us. Those of us in the world must use our wealth, such as it is, for the good of others - as you well noted in the parable of the servants who multiplied what they were given. There's no crime in having wealth or building it as long as it isn't an end in itself. Now if I could just get a little more money...

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  9. Yes, money should not be an end in itself.

    God bless you Barbara.

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