How do we live today? Are we occupied with looking for a well-paying job, saving, planning and in entertainment? How are we called to live? Is it really true that we have to be so detached that the world and its affairs don’t matter? Should we stop looking for well-paying jobs? Should young couples forget about saving to buy a house? Is it not right to make financial provisions for our children’s education? Should we refuse to plan holidays, book tickets in advance, dress in style, sign up for further education? If we are called to be austere in our ways, how do we ensure that our austerity does not impinge on our God given responsibilities and obligations?
The Bible tells us not to get attached to worldly things.
“Do not store up … treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven … For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Mt.6:19-21
Lk.12:20 reinforce’ this with “… God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
Practically, what should be our attitude towards material possessions and their use in our life? Not everyone is called to live ascetic lives like St. Francis of Assisi – living without worldly possessions. But our worldly possessions can be a means to an end of living in accordance with the will of God. The following story illustrates this.
A young couple had planned and were steadily saving for the future. One day a colleague of the husband fell into great distress and the couple, after discussing together, broke into their savings to help him out. A senior couple, who were their good friends, was appalled. “How could you do that?” they asked. “Wasn’t that the money you saved for your children’s education? You can give away from your plenty, but it is not wise to dip into your savings. You owe it to your children.” In all fairness we can excuse the older couple their vexation as they had recently paid a large amount for their son’s entrance into medical school.
“Suppose,” they continued, “your child needs a large amount of money for college, what will you do?” The younger couple considered this and justified their action saying, “The man needed it now. Our child is young and we have time to save more. When our child needs it, God will provide.”
The older couple was not convinced. “God is not going to provide if you foolishly give your money on others,” they declared. Now the young couple, sure that they had done the right thing responded, “If God does not provide when our child requires it, our child will have to make do with whatever we can afford at that time. We would see it as God’s will for our child.”
This is a true story and it has a happy ending. When the time came, the couple had enough for both their children and still some left over. All their lives they saw that God provided sufficiently for their needs and much more. They were never rich, but they were never in need and they always had enough to help others. Often they were not paid back by those who had received from them, but always they were paid back in some other way by God.
Let us not be misled. Jesus did not condemn the rich but merely pointed out how difficult it was for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. This does not mean extreme austerity to force yourself into the Kingdom of Heaven, but exercise of prudence and responsibility in using ones abilities and talents to procure resources and use them in accordance with the will of God. This includes being prepared to part with your resources and possessions when required. Abraham was called to give up his dearest possession – his only son. God sent His dearest possession, His only son, for the good cause of saving all of us.
So I say, look for your well paid job, save for your home, make your plans always as a means to an end – the end being your treasures in heaven. A person who earns well is in a position to do tremendous charity. A well-kept home that is always open to the traveler and a holiday that refreshes your spirit is not out of line with what God wants. Be always on the lookout for ways to get your earthly treasures to work for you by laying up treasures in heaven.
Perhaps we can be inspired by these allegedly dying words of Alexander the Great: “Bury my body, do not build any monument, and keep my hands outside (the coffin) so that the world knows the person who won the world had nothing in his hands when dying“.
Story of Alexander’s three dying wishes available on the Web.