By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde
All too often it may seem that money is not only necessary, but that it dominates the way we live our lives. We need funds if we wish to possess almost any material object; we need it to raise our families; we need it to purchase food to eat and to buy or rent a home in which to live; we work daily to earn it. As American citizens in a modern culture, the “almighty dollar” plays a large, intricate role in our lives.
Money in itself is morally neutral. It is neither intrinsically good nor evil, but rather a tool that we use to accomplish various endeavors. But like any neutral object in life, money carries with it a certain temptation and potential for evil. The dollar may be “almighty” in the terms of the world, but we must keep our eyes on the Cross, not on a dollar sign! Scripture tells us that: “For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Tim. 6:10). Note once again that money itself is not evil; the inordinate desire for it is sinful.
Greed has led to countless sins in the past and in the present. Wars are started to obtain more of it. Families are torn apart when money creates tension and division within them. Even in our own country, the poor remain vulnerable in many circumstances.
What is the antidote to these disordered uses of money? Scripture tells us in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:3).
This discussion about wealth and poverty should also lead us to consider the spirit of poverty to which we are called as Christians. Why is it that the Beatitudes tell us “blessed are the poor in spirit?” What does this mean? It means that even though we may be blessed with material goods, we must acknowledge that they are gifts, and that possessing them gives us a greater responsibility to put them in their proper place in our life.
Can I live without the latest trends and devices? Our lives and inner peace should not revolve around whether we possess the latest technology.
Can I simplify my transportation? Do I purchase the most impressive vehicle I can find, or do I live within my means? Do I waste resources needlessly? Do I walk when I can?
Do I need a large, luxurious house? Do I place an undue amount of attention on status, and the size of my home? Do I thank God daily for providing me with a place to live?
Are my vacations spent detaching from technology and treasuring relationships and nature? Do I constantly take elaborate vacations that are more about prestige than actual relaxation? Do I detach myself from devices such as laptops and cell phones and spend quality time with my family and friends?
Am I irrationally upset and angry if a possession is ruined? Do we realize that people are greater than things? Do we jeopardize our relationships with others when something material is damaged or broken?
Do I share my possessions? Do I realize that everything I have is a gift from the Father, and that part of the call to Christians is to share with those less-fortunate?
Do I complain? Do we realize that each of our lives is unique, and what is given to us by God is unique? Do we strive to maintain a grateful heart, thanking God for the blessings we have, rather than focusing on what we do not have?
What are some additional ways each of us can live out the spirit of poverty in our lives?