Detachment: When Less is More
Over the years, I’ve had an income that has allowed me to buy most anything I’ve really wanted. I wear nice clothes, drive an expensive car and live in a well-furnished home. While I thought these things would make me happy, I sense there is a void in my life. I am a Christian, but my walk with the Lord hasn’t been a priority. Do you have any suggestions?
I just returned from attending a conference where a very successful businessman shared his story. It sounded a lot like yours. Over the years, he had done very well in his profession, yet he had lost touch with his wife and children and, even more important, with our Lord. Our consumer society leads many down this path. Fortunately for the man at the conference, he experienced a re-conversion to Christ that eventually led him to a closer walk with God and his family. You can experience the richness of a closer walk with Christ, too.
While our Christian journey has many facets, one that you alluded to in your question, which deserves focus, is how detachment from material things impacts our relationship with Christ. St. John of the Cross, one of the Church’s spiritual giants, described detachment this way: “It makes little difference whether a bird is tied by a thin thread or by a cord. For even if tied by thread, the bird will be prevented from taking off just as surely as if it were tied by a cord — that is, it will be impeded from flight as long as it does not break the thread. Admittedly, the thread is easier to snap, but no matter how easily this may be done, the bird will not fly away before first doing so.”
As we read the Gospels, we are frequently struck at how our Lord describes the Christian’s life in a paradoxical way: “But many that are first will be last, and the last first” (Matthew 19:30). “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39). When it comes to money, he tells us, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon” (Matthew 6:24). We need to learn to live this paradox.
In order to fan the flames of your relationship with Christ, I encourage you to implement a daily spiritual plan of reading, meditation and prayer — and to focus on achieving a healthy attitude of detachment, consistent with your state in life. Here are a few practical hints:
Do you track your expenses? Learn to look at your spending habits in light of the Gospels, and you’ll more effectively separate “needs” from “wants.” Do you find yourself buying on a whim, just because you see something and decide you want it? By avoiding impulse purchases, you’ll be making a small sacrifice that will foster a spirit of detachment. Practice the Church’s discipline of abstaining from meat on Fridays, or, if health allows, take it a step further and fast on a weekly basis. Begin tithing and almsgiving. By giving back to God from your first fruits, you’ll foster a closer relationship with God and experience the joy of assisting in the building of Christ’s Kingdom here on earth.
It will be our prayer that, as you learn to better detach yourself from the lure of worldly things, you enjoy the abundant life our Lord has in store for you. God love you!
Phil Lenahan is director
of finance at Catholic Answers in
El Cajon, California.