Archive for category Wealth/Money

Luke 12:13-21 Parable of the rich fool

As far as the Bible is concern, the rich man mentioned in the Gospel who died while his barns were bulging with goods that he couldn’t use was not an evil man. Jesus didn’t say that he was dishonest, immoral, exploitative and oppressive. The man was rich prior to the harvest, and the harvest simply increased his wealth. Certainly, he appears to have been very successful in his occupation. He must have been an intelligent, resourceful, and industrious worker to have accumulated such great wealth. The Lord didn’t call him a sinner, but sad to say, the Lord denounced him as a fool.

What are some of the sins and failings of the the rich man why he deserved such harsh condemnation from the Lord?

First, the rich failed to restrain his obsession for possession and wealth. In the story we are told that he was so obsessed to hoard more, to possess more and to acquire more not knowing that death awaits him and caught him by surprise and, therefore, he was unprepared for his untimely death. And that costs him his soul. Indeed “Greed never rests from the acquiring of more” (On Love of Wealth 1 [Mor. 523 E]; L. T. Johnson 1991:198) until death puts a stop to it.

Second, the rich man made the mistake of thinking he was the absolute owner of his possessions when in truth he was just a steward of God’s gifts, graces and blessings. In his eyes, they were his barns, his fruits, his goods. He had forgotten, if he ever knew, that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.

Possessions or wealth are not to be hoarded selfishly but to be used to benefit those around us. What a tragic misuse of the gift of resources this man had gained! What could have been an opportunity for generosity and blessing became a stumbling block to the soul. Indeed, money is the best servant but a worst master!

Third, he was worried about the present  only and forgot about eternity.

Fourth, he was concerned only for the physical and material and forgot about spiritual things.

Fifth, he treasured things more than people. It is not surprising, therefore, if that man is worldly, materialistic, self-centered and self-absorbed. As expected, he lived his life in isolation. The hint of his problem lies in the man’s use of the first-person pronoun.  Go through the parable and circle the words “I” and “my” to get a sense of the man’s self-absorption.  In his short conversation with himself, he uses the word “I” six times and the word “my” five times.  Everything is “I” and “my.”

In sum, the rich man  is guilty of greed or avarice which he greatly manifested by his self-absorption and obsession for possession and wealth. To borrow the words of St. Paul, he is guilty of “the love of money which is the root of all evil”  (see cf. 1 Tm 6:10). Worst of all, he is guilty of idolatry (see Col 3:5).

Be on your guard and avoid every kind of greed, for even though you have many possessions, it is not that which gives you life’ (Mt12:15).  What does it profit a man if gains the whole world and loses his soul? Rather, be rich in what really matters to God (see Mt 12:21). Be rich in virtues, good works, and holiness.  “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:33).

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Luke 19:1-10 Zacchaeus, the Chief Tax Collector and a Wealthy Man

The salvation of any is so very difficult (even the righteous scarcely are saved) while the salvation of the rich is seemingly impossible (Mt 19:24). Jesus explicitly teaches that the salvation of a rich man is so extremely difficult, that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” (Mt 19:24).  Much more it such a rich man is a tax collector despised by the Jews as traitor and thief.  

Although it is a seeming impossibility for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, with God’s initiative and gift of salvation and man’s cooperation his salvation becomes possible. Indeed, with God what seems impossible becomes possible. 

In today’s gospel narrative, we heard a story about Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector of a wealthy city of Jericho, center of commerce and exporter date palms and balsam. The story of Zacchaeus, is a story of a rich man who finds salvation. As Ryle noted, “Here we see the camel passing through the eye of the needle, and the rich man entering the kingdom of God” (J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House), p. 290)! Although it seem impossible for the rich people to be saved (see Mt 19:24), God can save them. For with God’s grace nothing is impossible. Along with the grace and initiative of God in Christ to seek out and to save what was lost, what saved Zacchaeus from sin and isolation?

First, his humility.  He humbled himself in acknowledging his sinfulness before God to the point of seeking to see Jesus who will save him from slavery to sin and misery caused by sin whose nature is to separate us from God and from one another. Humility is the sure evidence of Christian virtues. Without it, we retain all our faults still, and they are only covered over with pride, which hides them from other men’s observation, and sometimes from our own too (François, Duc De La Rochefoucauld (1613–1680), French writer, moralist. repr. F.A. Stokes Co., New York (c. 1930). Moral Maxims and Reflections, no. 358 (1665-1678), trans. London (1706)).

Second, his joyful welcome of Jesus and his gift of salvation and his response of repentance. Interior repentance is a radical orientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our hearts, an end to sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of the spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of the heart) (Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1676-1678; 1705; cf. Roman Catechism, II, V, 4). 

“Penance requires…the sinner to endure all things willingly, be contrite of heart, confess with the lips, and practice complete humility and fruitful satisfaction” Roman Catechism II, V, 21; cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1673). “Penance is therefore a conversion that passes from the heart to deeds, and then to the Christian’s whole life” (RP, n. 4).

Third, his repentance led him to renewal of life in Christ. “Conversion is accomplished and manifested in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, just and equitable reparation of the damage and harm done to others, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right,[Cf. Am 5:24 ; Isa 1:17 .] by the admission of faults to one’s brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one’s cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance’ (Cf. Lk 9:23 ).

St. Paul exhorts Christian who repented and converted to Christ:

“I declare and solemnly attest in the Lord that you must no longer live as pagans do – their minds empty, their understanding darkened. They are estranged from a life in God because of their ignorance and their resistance without remorse they have abandoned themselves to lust and the indulgence of every sort of lewd conduct. That is not what you learned when you learned Christ! I am supposing, of course, that he has been preached and taught to you in accord with the truth that is in Jesus: namely, that you must lay aside your former way of life and the old self which deteriorates through illusion and desire and acquire a fresh, spiritual way of thinking. You must put on that new man created in God’s image, whose justice and holiness are born of truth”  (Eph 4:17-24). 

It was not Zacchaeus’ giving money that saved him but his joyful reception of Jesus Christ and his invitation of salvation into his home and heart. Friends, Jesus has been knocking the door of our homes and hearts, be always ready in letting him in that you, like Zacchaeus, shall received the reward of Jesus: “Today salvation has come to this house…For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost” (Lk 19:10)

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