Jun 042018
 

Wealth

Money is something that we are not supposed to bring up in a polite conversation.  Yet, the Bible constantly deals with the inner spirit of slavery that is the result of an idolatrous  attachment to wealth.  “If riches increase, set not your heart on them,” counsels the psalmist.

 

 

Our Lord saw the grip that wealth can have upon a person.  He knew that “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” which is precisely why he commanded his followers, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth”.  Note, he is not saying that the heart should or should not be where the treasure is located.  He is simply stating the plain fact that wherever you find treasure, there you will also find the heart.  That can mean different things for different people.  Yet the truth of his assertion belongs to all of us.  Tell me what you value most and I will tell you where your heart is.  Yet the search for treasure and the heart can sometimes have a surprising result.  When the Roman persecutors asked St. Lawrence to produce the treasure of the Church, he brought in the poor of the city and said, “Here are the treasures of the Church”.  In so doing, he revealed the location of his heart.  

I wonder, what treasure would reveal the location of our hearts today?  What is the treasure of the Church?  Is it in our bank accounts and our endowments?  Is it in our buildings and institutions?  Perhaps it is in our institutions, or our radio stations, or our Christian cable networks… or perhaps, in some places, we might find our treasure and our hearts in the midst of “the least of these” , Our Lord’s brethren.

Most often, our treasure is literal.  Jesus exhorted the rich young ruler not just to have an inner attitude of detachment from his possessions, but to literally to abandon all his possessions if he wanted the kingdom of God.  He counseled people who came seeking God, “Sell your possessions, and give alms: provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail…”  He told the parable of the rich farmer whose life centered on hoarding – we might call him prudent or an investor – but Jesus called him a fool.  Like the merchant in search of a single fine pearl, we should be willing to sell all that we have that we might gain its superlative beauty.  He calls all who would follow him to a joyful life of carefree unconcern for possessions: “Give to every one who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again.”

These are the “hard sayings” of our Lord – the ones we try not to hear.

Yet, these are the very words that have so often brought forth the “lilies of the field” in the midst of the Church’s barren waste.  They are the radiant flowers we know by name: Antony of the Desert, Benedict of Nursia, Augustine of Hippo, Gregory the Great, Francis and Clare of Assisi, Catherine of Siena, Julian of Norwich, the Wesley brothers, holy John Keble, Charles de Foucault, Mother Theresa of Calcutta,  and countless unnamed and unknown saints through the ages.

May God please to bring forth such beauty in our midst today by opening our ears to hear these “hard sayings” anew.

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project

  15 Responses to ““Wealth”: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD”

  1. Shhhh. Duane, I’m trying not to hear this right now.

    (Just kidding. This is exactly what the Lord has been bringing to my attention.)

  2. Josh,

    I think it is especially important in this era of celebrity and wealth…

  3. I agree. Even middle-income guys like myself tend to hold our money very tightly for security, rather than trusting in the true provider.

  4. #3 Josh,

    It’s funny, we’re doing a major purge of our home this summer (the result of being in the same place for 20+ years). We find ourselves giving away things that we once scrimped and saved to buy. I gives a perspective on possessions…

  5. As the dirty little secret of the increase of homeless people in this nation is, for some reason swept under the rug, unsolvable to date, I’m not sure that this lesson is quite the whole story….
    It is interesting tho that these people living in tents on the sidewalk – or worse – do have their hoard of ‘stuff,’ too…
    I guess, for me, the question is, where is the line between prudent living and dependence upon material things?

  6. I think this may be the most important precept of the church militant…and it’s been lost in so many ways…

  7. I do this no better than anyone else, but 2 things I have done to keep myself grounded a little bit – 20 yrs ago I stopped reporting my charitable giving to the tax man. Fist it is my business alone how much I give and to whom. Second, I felt I was making the government my partner in giving as they would give me back 25% of my donations out of public funds.

    The other thing – and this may have been a Francis Schaeffer thing, I go to the dump probably once a month or so and remind myself of all the things people just had to have – even some lied, cheated or stole to get —- now just sitting in the dump.

  8. I remember some years ago receiving a phone call requesting a donation from a major Christian charity (not Samaritan’s Purse 😊 ). I explained that my giving was maxed out and that i couldn’t agree to send them money. As i recall the sum they wanted was fairly large. After some rather aggressive words on the part of the caller, she said, Well, i will pray for you that God will bless you with prosperity” and hung up.
    My daughter who is plugged in to some online twitters and facebooks tells me that they are having a heyday with duplantis’ call for donations to buy the latest and greatest private jet airplane because “he has God’s approval to get it.” Sadly, these unbelieving people define our Faith by these things.

  9. It is interesting that my millennial friends are much less driven to “accumulate stuff” compared to us boomers. On the other hand, boomers are more likely to give time and money to alleviate suffering…

    That’s an enigma.

  10. I’ve thought a lot about this over the last few years.
    I’ve made a lot of decisions treasuring people over money…and I sometimes feel like a fool for doing so.
    Heaven will be the place where i find out if I walked in wisdom or emotion…not here.

  11. #10 Michael

    God treasured us above his personal prerogatives… I think you’re in good company.

  12. Duane,

    As you are as well…

    For me, the overarching umbrella of the Scriptures is sacrificial love…and I cannot claim Christ without it being mine.

  13. Complex subject. “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

    I once handed a guy a dollar bill in the DC metro station (1995, IIRC). A transit cop who witnessed it came up to me and chastised me for showing bills. “Give change if you must, but we’ve had people stabbed for just a few dollars here. Never show paper money!”

    My mother was a hoarder, the other side of worshipping “stuff” (a mental addiction rather than conspicuous consumption). I and others, however, enabled this over the years, basically throwing money into the wind. She ended up losing property over $100k due to being a poor steward. Still, I gave when asked and when not… even when I ended up being bad-mouthed :^p

    Me? I’ve been faithfully putting into my retirement for 26 years, not buying much “stuff” driving cars well below what I could afford (and driving them for 8-10 years), so I’m doing ok. I give when the opportunity arises, but seeing
    how people can get taken advantage of, especially in regards to elder financial abuse, boundaries are good if it means not being homeless. The kids will get some kind of inheritance. If I were to follow the Early Church model, I suppose I could open up my home to a small family– despite my mom’s horrible experiences with doing that over the years (bless her heart for doing so), but my kids’ safety comes first.

    “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

  14. New Victor

    It is complex, indeed, especially in the modern age. That being said, I think our “consumer society” of “the newest, the latest and the best” has harmed us, especially in the Church. Finding a balance is difficult…

  15. Living in the Silicon Valley, it’s ground central for conspicuous consumption. Driving a 5 series Beemer, say, isn’t impressive, it’s normal. I’m trying to not spoil my kids and teach them well. I might be falling behind…

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