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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

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We need to establish a balanced attitude to this thing we call money

We need to establish a balanced attitude to this thing we call money

I’ve been a priest for more than 55 years and a criticism I often hear from the laity is that priests are always talking about money. Well, of the 38 parables Jesus told, 19 of them dealt with handling possessions. The use of money is necessary for Christians, but our focus should be on the relationships we have with our loving Creator and with each other.

The problem with money lies in our attitude toward it. It’s just like dealing with alcoholism: Alcohol itself is not the problem. The way we use alcohol can be life-threatening. If our relationship to alcohol is one of serious dependence, then we have become a slave to alcohol.

Jesus insists that any relationship with our loving Father be one that is based on trust. Unfortunately, we could give many examples of our unwillingness to trust, because by doing so we become vulnerable. All too often we would rather protect our own interests, by acquiring wealth, sometimes to the detriment of others.

If money has gained control over our lives, then we have become a slave to money. When money separates us from other people, rather than bringing us closer to others, then it is effectively controlling our relationships. When money dictates with whom we will spend our time, or effects any number of important decisions we make, then we have become addicted to it.

Our true self-worth comes from an inner communication with our Creator, not with the outward show of money and power. Jesus directly attacked the view that wealth is power. Our strength comes from relying on our loving God, not by our accumulation of riches.

Why do so many of us idolize money? It’s because of what we think it can bring us. Money promises comfort, pleasure, security, status and many other desirable things. It is not money itself that we want. It is what money can bring us. What does money promise to bring into our lives?

If comfort is what we are seeking through money, we would be wise to look at other sources of comfort. Many people find comfort in their relationship with God and in their relationships with other people. Some find comfort in helping people. It makes more sense to put our energy into improving those relationships, rather than into making more money.

We can do the same with all of the other things that money promises. An old saying says that the best things in life are free. We need money for certain necessities – food, shelter, clothing and many other life essentials. However, not everything needs to come from spending money.

One big area we have to examine is pleasure. Some people believe that if we have not spent money on something, then we have not enjoyed it. Many simple pleasures are available in life – friendship, nature, laughter, beauty, reading, listening to music, silence, times alone, and times with others. Complete your own list. Maybe if we thought about those times we enjoyed the most, money had nothing to do with that enjoyment.

A nation’s greatness is measured not in wealth or military strength, but in its concern for the weak. Our relationship with Christ leads us to reach out to the marginalized and vulnerable. Sharing our wealth with others is a sign that we are committed to the common good of all, because we are all part of God’s family.

Jesus tells us that we cannot have two masters.

“No slave can serve two masters: for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

We need to give money the rightful place it deserves, but not to allow it to become our master.