National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Rightly Ordered Ambition


June 25-July 1, 2006 Issue | Posted 6/26/06 at 11:00 AM


I recently converted to the Catholic faith and I am having a difficult time discerning what parts of my old life might be inconsistent with my new life in Christ. In the past, I was very driven to achieve aggressive financial goals, and I have done well in that regard. Could you clarify what the Church says about balancing the drive for material security with the desire for salvation and sanctification?

Congratulations on your “new life” as a Catholic. Jesus says that you cannot serve both God and money because you will love one and hate the other (Matthew 6:24). He also says that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God (Mark 10:25). An isolated reading of these verses can trigger concern for anyone who has amassed wealth. The pursuit of wealth, power and fame can lead people to sin and separation from God. Christ warns us of that because he loves us.

God wants us to beware of all things that could separate us from him. The wealth that many Americans posses or strive for can cause a spiritual fog, if not total blindness. We sometimes hear people brush these passages aside. But many of the great saints wrote very specifically about wealth and poverty. St. John Chrysostom, for example, preached repeatedly on the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. As a result, he was hated by many wealthy leaders. He challenged them to search their conscience about the corruption that their wealth caused in their lives. Having read these and many other similar writings from the saints, I cannot suggest that you blissfully move along in life without taking a hard look at what really drives you — God or money.

At the same time, as with most concepts in Scripture, it is important to read God’s word in its full context. I would ask that you reflect upon Jesus’ parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. In this story, a righteous “boss” condemns the worst worker and rewards the best. The master gave talents to the servants according to their ability and expected each of them to use them to their fullest. You might say that he wanted the greatest return on his investment.

Jesus does the same for each of us. He expects us to use our gifts in order to help build his Kingdom. If you have been given a gift to amass wealth, then you may be called to apply that gift. But there are some important things you should do in order to grow in holiness.

It is important to examine your conscience in order to know your true motives. If you are building wealth in order to share it with others and to glorify God, then you will grow in holiness during the pursuit. But if you are acquiring wealth for vain glory or because you find your greatest satisfaction in money rather than in Christ, then you would do well to heed Christ’s “God vs. mammon” warnings.

A final thought: God wants everyone to be Catholic, the rich and the poor. That is what makes us all the body of Christ. Where would the Church and the poor receive financial help if all Catholics chose poverty?

Catholic motivational speaker Dave Durand’s latest book is Perpetual Motivation.  He’s online at