“Wealth”: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD
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.