Thursday, December 3, 2015

Wealth and Giving

Today’s Epistle Reading: St. Paul's First Letter to Timothy 6:17-21 - TIMOTHY, my son, charge the rich in this world not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches but on God who richly furnishes us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, thus laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life which is life indeed. O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards the faith. Grace be with you. Amen.
My goal recently has been to blog daily as I have other years during the Nativity Fast. It helps to remain focused on spiritual matters rather than the mundane politics of the day. It hasn’t always been easy since part of my ministry includes spending some time every day on the internet during which time it has become increasingly difficult to avoid politics. Nonetheless, I will attempt to offer a few words every day for the glory of God.

In today’s Epistle reading we hear another commandment for the Church to urge wealthy individuals to higher spiritual standards. Yesterday, I spoke negatively about the new “Giving Tuesday” movement because I truly believe it takes advantage of peoples good intentions to be generous, so that wealth can increase. There are many reports of CEOs of various national charities with unreasonably high salaries. It is clear to me that many people have become quite rich claiming to serve the poor.

Talking about wealth can be a daunting task. Everyone who is wealthy wants to remain wealthy, and so many who are not wealthy desire to become wealthy. Some even suggest they desire wealth “just” so they can help others. How many times have you heard, “If I could just win the lottery, I would be able to help....” but the money never seems to flow to the various charities as promised. There always seem to be other desires that get in the way. Advance promises give way to current excuses. Wealth can be so tempting.

It doesn’t require wealth to love others. It doesn’t require wealth to have compassion for others. It doesn’t require wealth even to feed the hungry. It requires a heart that desires God above all else, because once wealth finds its way into our bank account, it isn’t a difficult journey into our hearts. Once we “get the taste of wealth” we crave an ever more growing supply. And then we make excuses that our donations, though they are but a small fraction of our wealth, are “more than others need.” I was once told, “Father, if just the men around this table tithed, the entire Church budget would already be funded,” as if that were a bad thing.

And so it continues. The wealthy use their wealth to influence society, sometimes even claiming it is for the good of society, without ever really giving to society themselves. It isn’t uncommon for a wealthy person to say, “I know how to make money. If you listen to me, the Church will have plenty of money,” but then never actually giving any of their own wealth to the Church. Many times, it would have been much easier, and more effective in the long run, if instead of teaching others how to earn money for their Church, the wealthy taught others how to give by actually giving.

I invite you this Nativity Fast to learn how to give rather than how to get the best deal. I invite you to reconsider how to go about your Christmas shopping. Rather than attempting to “get as much as you can for as little as you can,” spend the Nativity Fast giving what you already have. In other words, your love, your time, your compassion, your peace....and then you may just find that shopping mall a less stressful experience. This isn’t a fasting period for nothing.

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