Our financial wealth is not ours. It may feel like ours because we earned it or in some cases were given it, but however wealth comes to us, wealth is a communal resource, not something to be horded away, but rather to be used for those less fortunate.
In the Gospel according to Luke we read, “…From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more (12:48).” Traditionally, the Church has interpreted this verse to refer to those teaching the Christian faith, but as I found myself meditating on this verse over this past week, I could not help but acknowledge that this application refers to all of God’s gifts. Not only are we who carry the wealth of the Christian mysteries expected to give much of ourselves, but also those who have been blessed with the ability to secure material wealth as well.
There is much condemnation of wealthy people in the Bible and this has led to many unfortunate misunderstandings. While it may be true that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24), it is not by virtue of such wealth that this judgment is passed. Material acquisition is a neutral process which only becomes contaminated when it is distributed unequally, or worse, retained for selfish purposes. For such individuals, Jesus is quite clear, salvation will become a far more severe commodity than any financial gain such a person might currently possess. It is for this reason so many honest spiritual seekers have taken the Vow of Poverty, not because poverty is preferable, but rather, because poverty renders far less temptation to fail the attainment of salvation.
In a world, such as ours, ruled almost exclusively by greed and disparity through corporations, political parties, and the people that support and represent them, I find it terribly distressing that two-thousand years later, Jesus’ words still hold true. Is the human race so incapable of spiritual development that it still commits the most ancient of crimes? Despite His warning, it would seem few heed such words. I am faced every day in my work and in my ministry with unthinkable needs and profound misfortune. Every day I seek out a means, any means, to generate relief funds for those in the world who are suffering at the hand of oppression and every day, I come up emptier than before. No one gives. No one cares. Your life is okay and that’s what matters, right?
Living the ethical life is more than being honest. Being a moral person requires more than keeping the Ten Commandants. We must give entirely of ourselves, all the way to the point of exhaustion, and then still give even more! Christ gave us such an example on the Cross. There was far more than the redemption of sin taking place in that event. The Cross was a road map to the Divine life demonstrating, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. (Luke 9:23)”. Nobody is off the hook. I don’t even care if you don’t believe in the Christian message, this still applies to you. By virtue of your humanity, this applies to you!
Sometimes, and quite often it seems, man’s greatest sin is not what wrongs he commits, but rather what good he fails to do.Begging God's mercy,
Patriarch Nicholas III in mundo +Bryan D. Ouellette, Ph.D.
Holy Nicholean Catholic Church
Holy Imperial Russian Orthodox Church