A recent cover story in Time magazine asked, “Does God Want You To Be Rich?” It focused on the “health and wealth” gospel proclaimed by a number of televangelists. I sometimes watch these shows and some of what they say makes sense. What is a Catholic to think?
Scripture certainly includes references that — when considered independently — could lead one to draw conclusions at either extreme. One could conclude that God wants us to have a life of material abundance, or that he expects us to choose a life of poverty. The beauty of Catholic teaching over the centuries is that it interprets verses within the context of the rest of Scripture. Catholic teaching is balanced.
What’s the key to understanding this balance? It starts with recognizing that all we have ultimately belongs to the Lord (Deuteronomy 10:14) and that, no matter how much we have, he wants us to use these resources as his steward or manager (Catechism, No. 2404). Jesus seems to make it clear that society will always include people who have different levels of economic success. He gave different amounts of talents to the three stewards (Matthew 25). He said that we would always have the poor with us.
Christ’s overarching message, however, is that he is our true treasure, and that — without a properly formed conscience — the pursuit of money or possessions can become an end in itself, damaging our relationship with him.
Let me share a story. There was once a stingy lawyer who was diagnosed with a terminal illness. He was determined to prove wrong the saying “You can’t take it with you.” After much thought and consideration, the old ambulance-chaser finally figured out how to take at least some of his money with him when he died.
He instructed his wife to go to the bank and withdraw enough cash to fill two pillowcases. He then asked her to take them to the attic and leave them in a space directly above his bed. His plan was that, when he passed away, he’d reach out and grab the money on his way to heaven.
Several weeks after the funeral, the deceased lawyer’s wife was cleaning up in the attic when she came upon the two stuffed pillow cases. “Oh, that darned fool!” she exclaimed. “I knew he should have had me put the money in the basement!”
Now I don’t mean to pick on lawyers but this joke does remind us that, when we’re called home by the Lord, we’ll be leaving our material possessions behind.
So within the context of our particular vocation, let’s strive to use our talents well and prioritize the use of the resources the Lord blesses us with in ways that are pleasing to him. God bless you.
Phil Lenahan is president of
Veritas Financial Ministries