Posts Tagged Wealth
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).
There is a popular misunderstanding about money or riches as the source of all evils. Because of this we tend to believe that the rich is bad and the poor is good. The rich is cursed and the poor is blessed. The rich is destined to hell while the poor to heaven. Hence, at all costs and by all means, money or wealth is to be avoided and stay economically poor and miserable as much as possible.
This appears to be a good news, a consolation and hope to the poor. But this is not what the Gospel‘s parable teaches us today. Money in itself is not evil and does not make us evil. Rather it is the love of money that is the source of all evils. It is our selfishness, insensitivity, and inhumanity that are the sources of evil and make us bad. It is our being unfaithful, irresponsible and unfruitful stewards and failure to be “merciful just as our Father is merciful” (see Lk 6:36) that make us undeserving to receive the eternal life and happiness in heaven promised by God those who love Him and his people.
The moral lesson is this. Any person (or rich) who distances himself from the poor (Lazarus) in this life he will find himself in great torment and in a far distance from the poor who at the side of Abraham enjoying eternal bliss in the next life. And he will be prevented from joining them by great chasm made permanent by God. It is not God who condemns us to hell; it is we who condemn ourselves through a life of selfishness, insensitivity and inhumanity to the poor around us.
The parables asks : Will the five brothers, the readers as well the listeners follow the example of the rich man or heed Jesus’ teaching and that of the OT about care of the needy like Lazarus and thus be children of Abraham. If the brothers, the readers and the listeners do not follow that teaching, they will not have a place at the messianic banquet. Mere words do not make one a child of Abraham and therefore a member of reconstituted Israel. (see JBC 43:151:27) “Dives’ claim that Abraham is his father is of no effect, for he has not produced the deeds of loving kindness that would have signified repentance from his self-centered callous way of life (G. W. E. Nickelsburg, NTS 25 [1978-79] 338).
“My prayer is that your love may more and more abound, both in understanding and wealth of experience, so that with a clear conscience and blameless conduct you may learn to value the things that really matter” (Phil 1:9-10).