An Instruction on Wealth and True Treasure
User’s Guide to Sunday, July 31
In today’s Gospel, Jesus warns, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Greed is often downplayed today; accumulation and the ostentatious display of wealth are often celebrated. But the Lord provides five teachings on wealth to help us keep it in perspective and avoid greed.
The initiation of wealth: The text says, “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.” Notice that it is the land, not the man, that yields the increased harvest. God gave this man the land, the rain and even the field hands that helped him.
The inconvenience of wealth: The parable continues, “He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’” The man is burdened by his wealth because he does not consider generosity an option. “What shall I do?” he asks anxiously. He thinks of bigger barns but does not consider the stomachs of the needy and poor to be a proper place to store the excess grain. Wealth brings comfort, but it is also a source of inconvenience: locks, alarms, storage facilities, insurance costs, worries, repairs, maintenance and upgrades.
The illusion of wealth: The parable goes on to say, “And [the man] said, ‘I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself … rest, eat, drink, be merry.’” Here we are taught that riches easily lead us to an illusion of self-sufficiency. We start to rely on self and on riches instead of on God. But as we shall see, the man’s wealth will utterly fail him before the night is out.
The insufficiency of wealth: “But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’” And thus we see the illusion give way to the reality of insufficiency. Scripture says, “There are men who trust in their wealth and boast of the vastness of their riches. But no man can buy his own ransom, or pay a price to God for his life” (Psalm 49:5).
The instruction about wealth: The parable concludes, “Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.” So, what matters to God? What matters is that we be rich in justice, generosity, holiness and truth; that we share the bounty he bestows. There is an old saying, “You can’t take it with you but you can send it on ahead.” How? We “send it on ahead” by bestowing it on the poor and the needy (Matthew 6:19). This can include our family members, but should extend beyond the family, to many of the sick, needy and poor. Remember that God gave all the goods of the earth for all the people of the earth. This means that the goods of creation are destined for the whole human race. In our use of things, we should communicate the benefits to others, first of all our family (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2402, 2404).
Since you can’t take it with you, you might as well send it on ahead. Guard against greed by allowing these five teachings on wealth to give you a proper perspective. Wealth is not evil, but we must heed the Lord’s teachings for it to bless, rather than condemn us.