Tag Archives: Money

Jesus and the Rich Youth

Mark 10:17-27

The Gospel on the rich young man is rich with meaning. It is noteworthy to point out that Jesus still loved the youth despite knowing that he wouldn’t give up his possessions to follow Him (c.f. Mk 10:21).

Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, Heinrich Hofmann (1889)
Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, Heinrich Hofmann (1889)

This young man had observed the laws from his youth (Mk 10:20). Although he did not choose to take on the path to perfection (give away all his possessions and follow Jesus), he did not suffer a lessening of Jesus’s love.

It is amazing how intelligent and philosophical Jesus is as he brilliantly draws from Eccl 5:10 to illuminate the path to our perfection; “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money; nor he who loves wealth, with gain: this also is vanity.”

As St. Augustine comments: “Although he did not pass the bounds of humanity, nor follow the perfection of Christ, still he was not guilty of any sin, since he kept the law according to the capability of a man, and in this mode of keeping it, Christ still loved him.”

This passage corresponds to plenty of us today, for most of us are the type who would do our best to keep away from grave sin and obey basic Gospel precepts, but we would REJECT the idea of following the Spirit’s Counsel towards Perfection.

There is a stark difference therefore, between the Perfect and Permissible Will that God has planned out for each of us.

Let us remember; when we listen to God, it becomes possible, but as long as we keep our human notions, it becomes impossible (c.f. Mk 10:27).

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Originally posted on Instagram.
Image: PD-US

Instantly Now

Once upon a time — that is how all the old stories start.  And they do have a certain inkling of romance attached to them — the sound of a roaring wind — chestnuts cracking in a great stone hall — the smell of lavender and jasmine in the opal air — the sweet taste of the first honeysuckle — the red, blue, and purple crackling of an open fire with the stars dancing above and the dew lightly kissing the grass beneath.  The smell of cinnamon and nutmeg, ginger and garlic; the warmth of the sun on your face and sand between your toes; the creaking of the leather saddles and the taste of freshly-baked blueberry pies — yes, those magical words have a kind of romance about them that can instantly transport you to another place and time.

With all this in mind, there is still an unsatisfied recess of my mind which demands for something more.  Why are all the stories in the past?  Why doesn’t someone write a story that is happening this very instant; as the clock ticks away the seconds while you are reading, the very same clock is ticking away the seconds in the story.

What new horizons would this lead to in the world of literature?  What planets are we yet to discover?  Quit your tedious plowing of the underground fields of the ancient myths, and turn your attention to the deep and secret happenings of today — either plainly exposed under a mountain or concealed in a soft bed of clouds.  Breathe in the polluted air and enjoy the progress of today.  Don’t bother recording it for posterity — the future is too hazy and that would make us the past — accordingly, irrelevant.  No, instead, do everything for the now.  Because now is all that really matters.  The progressive people of today want to know what is happening as it happens.  After that, what does it matter anymore?  Why would we want to wait 20, 50, 100 or more years for it to be a confirmed part of our history, our culture, and our folklore before obtaining the story?  I mean, hey, the best thing about our society today is satisfaction on demand.  Instant gratification, some call it.  But didn’t someone once say something about time being money?  How true!!  Why waste time on little details?! 

Funny that we should use that metaphor, though, because these days money is so figurative. It’s a hazy concept which has been floating around for centuries.  Apparently it used to actually have a specific value and stood for something real.  Now, our money system is basically a complex cycle of numbers.  You get paid X amount of dollars and bring it to the bank in the form of a cheque.  You hand the piece of paper to the teller, who types something into the computer and hands you back a receipt.  You go merrily on your way, and there the numbers sit for X years.  In the meantime, you have earned interest on your numbers and they have increased by 0.0XXXXXX%.  You finally decide to purchase something with your numbers.  So you go to the store and bring along with you a tiny plastic card with your name and — you guessed it! — a series of numbers engraved on it.  With an easy swipe of the card and pressing of a few numbers the items are yours.  But woe are you if the numbers in your bank account and the numbers on your grand total don’t match up!  Some time is wasted by worrying about how to multiply and add up those numbers.  I’ll admit, that is the one flaw in our current monetary system.  But no worries!  Pretty soon you will receive a piece of paper in the mail from the government saying that they made more numbers to give to you!  So you see, like time, money is a hazy thing which somehow keeps on coming.  You never see it itself.  Just its representatives.

Can you imagine living in a world where you had what you had, and you had to work, plan, and wait to get it?  I hear tell that that is what it used to be like.  But we have more important things to spend time on now. Why worry about the future and how you are going to eat when you are hungry now?  Why pinch pennies for winter clothes and heat when you really want that new pair of sunglasses?  I mean, seriously, why worry about those boring, mundane details of life when now is happening!!  I mean, now is now.  Yesterday is gone and who knows if tomorrow will ever come?  Now is what is important.  Time is now. 

Well, there you have it. Futility.  Money, however much it is not, is not is mere numbers.  Or rather, it shouldn’t be.  It should have purpose and use.  God is outside of time, larger than time.  However, we need to encounter Him in the now of every moment of our lives.  Time and money are not the same.  But they are similar in that they both represent something larger than themselves: money representing our temporal needs, our mortal bodies.  Time representing our immortal souls, and our quest to let God find us.  Hence, time is not money.  And we can’t save both at Dollar General because we will die and we may or may not make it to Heaven.  People, Dollar General is not the answer to all life’s questions.  The name implies ordering money around, which translates to someone bossing you about how to live your life, which, seen as it is none of their beeswax, trespasses on Free Will.  Seeing that Free Will is a Gift from God, and Dollar General is trying to take away God’s gifts, don’t listen.

When You Give, God Gives More

By guest writer Tasman Westbury.

Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.
Luke 6:30

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.
Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Matthew 5:41

During the journey which led me from atheism through “exploratory Christianity” into the Catholic Church, I was homeless for awhile, and living on welfare payments. But one week, I decided to take these words of scripture to heart, and put them into practice.

I had about $20 left in my bank account, but I resolved to give to whomever asked money of me. When I was down to my last couple of dollars, someone asked me for some change. Initially, I resisted his request, but after thinking about it, I figured that I would be able to survive until my next payment, and gave him my last bit of cash.

Soon after that, I was listening to a Protestant street preacher, and met a Protestant acquaintance nearby. While I was asking after him, he decided to give me $100, just like that.

Then I visited a community which had broken away from the Catholic Church, and a lady suddenly pressed $50 into my hand, then reached back into her pocket and gave me another $50.

God is amazing, and He works through the most unexpected people to provide for our every need. When we have a radical trust in Him, He will respond like the prodigal father.

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Luke 6:38

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Image: PD/US

Tasman Westbury is a new Catholic who is currently exploring the Church’s treasure trove, which is found within prayer life.

The Laity’s Call to Gospel Poverty

When we think about poverty, we usually think about starving children in the third world, the homeless, or the elderly living on fixed incomes. We may feel badly for these people and occasionally drop a donation for them in the collection basket or hand a beggar a few dollars. Rarely do we seek to help the poor in a way that would radically change our lives and stretch us out of our comfort zone. Yet if we start to unpack Jesus’s teachings about riches in the Gospel, we see that He calls all of us to a more generous way of life.

He invites the rich young man to “Go, sell what you have,terrell-money and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven” (Mark 10:21). He praises the widow for contributing all that she had as an offering to God. (Mark 12:44). He warns his disciples not to store up their treasures on earth (Luke 12:16-21). His Apostles established a community which supporting each other through the sharing of material gifts (Acts 2:44-45).

The radical nature of the Gospel message to detach one’s self from their possessions and give to the poor frightens me because I am attached to many things such as, my job, my car, financial security, etc,. Yet God wants us to free ourselves from the love of things so we can love Him who has made those things. The less we are tied down by our possessions, the more joyful we can become as followers of Christ.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to find many examples of the evangelical poverty ideals lived out among lay Christians today. Too often, we are worried about the same things as our secular counterparts, job security, retirement savings, the newest electronics, etc. These distractions can even seep into our prayer lives as we become overly concerned about our financial situation. However, Pope Francis reminds us that:

“Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.” (Evangelii Gaudium 2)

Clearly, we cannot grow in virtue if we are so absorbed in worldly pursuits, but how do we practically live out the call to Gospel poverty so that we carve out space for God and the poor in our lives? It starts with having a healthy view of possessions. The catechism states that all Christians are called to:

direct their affections rightly, lest they be hindered in their pursuit of perfect charity by the use of worldly things and by an adherence to riches which is contrary to the spirit of evangelical poverty (CCC 2545).

Possessions are a means not an end. We do need things to live on earth, but they should not dictate how we spend our time and energy.

We should also look at how we choose to spend our money. Track your expenses for a month and record where your money goes. Bring that list to prayer and ask God if you were a good steward of the resources that he gave you. If there are areas where you have overindulged, commit to spending less so that you can free up money to give to the poor.

For those who already giving to charity, ask yourself if you support the Church and the poor out of your excess or your want? In other words, are you willing to change your lifestyle by eating out less, buying less expensive clothes, houses or cars so that you can support the poor? The apostle James admonishes us that it is our duty to clothe the naked and feed the hungry (James 2:15-16). Do we take this admonition seriously or are we only worried about our needs?

As the laity, we are the representatives of Christ in the world. People should see that the radical call of the Gospel in how we approach material goods. Instead of focusing so much time and energy on accumulating things, we must be willing to simplify our lives and serve Christ.  Periodically purge your closet and basement of items that you no longer need and maybe some things that you still enjoy so that you can remove worldly temptations from your life.

As we go about simplifying our lives, we must do it in a spirit of cheerfulness. If we begrudgingly give up that extra latte in the morning or a new pair of shoes than we miss the whole point. Christ calls us to evangelical poverty not because possessions are bad, but because if we misuse them they can hinder our relationship with Him.  Evangelical poverty is not merely seeing how much we can give up, but desiring to be filled so much by Christ, that we no longer desire the things of this world and are not distracted by fleeting wealth and pleasure. We are merely pilgrims whose goal is heaven, not the biggest house on the block.

I realize that I have only scratched the surface of what it means for the laity to live a life detached from material goods and focused on Christ. For further study on this topic, I highly recommend Fr. Thomas’ Dubay’s book, Happy are You Poor. However, I warn you, only read this book if you are willing to change your way of life. He pulls no punches in calling all Christians to embrace God’s call to simplicity and a life of joy.

Moral Economics 101

According to one admittedly unscientific survey, 37% of Occupy Wall Street protesters believe that capitalism is inherently immoral — presumably because they think it encourages Public Enemy No. 1, greed. Evidence shows that a more free economy (reasonably regulated) can actually alleviate poverty… but it can only do that in a moral society. Fixing the American economy in the long run — helping the poor, decreasing unemployment, repaying household debt, cutting the deficit  — will take more than a beefed-up version of Dodd-Frank or a tax-cutting, regulation-killing Republican administration. It will take several key virtues.

1. Honesty. Politicians, business owners, bankers, policemen, journalists, lawyers, and judges must seek the truth, tell the truth, and act according to the truth. Otherwise the trust which underlies every market transaction and every market activity will be eroded until society devolves into chaos. Why buy from a business if you think the owner is lying to you? Why give a start-up company capital if you suspect the entrepreneur is dishonest? Why open a store if the police turn a blind eye to shop-lifting? Or in the public realm: Why pay taxes if you think politicians will keep the money for themselves? Why contribute to public welfare if you know the system is ? Why take a criminal to court if the judge can be bribed? It is no coincidence that public-sector corruption goes hand-in-hand with terrible poverty. Without honesty, there will be no prosperity.

2. Charity. “The poor you will always have with you,” right? Even the freest and richest society contains poor and disadvantaged members. We can certainly debate how best to help them — keeping in mind that even the most well-intended efforts can have negative consequences — but the obligation remains. If you’re young and broke, find somewhere to volunteer!

3. Prudence. I pity the OWS protesters whose student-loan debt amounts to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. But they could have chosen a more practical major, worked for a year or two before enrolling in college, attended a community college before transferring to a four-year university, selected a cheaper college in the first place, etc. Similar unwise decisions underlie the housing crisis; it’s a mix of problems, but some homebuyers bought bigger houses than they could afford.

So spending money unwisely is bad not only for the spender but also for  the welfare system, heartless as that may sound. Same thing with spending time: teenagers who drop out of high school are far more likely to face joblessness, poverty, homelessness, and a host of other problems. Without blaming them entirely for their circumstances, we must strongly encourage them to graduate from high school and acquire the skills necessary to holding down a job. Imprudent decisions contribute to poverty.

4. Chastity. Don’t have kids until you’re married. That’s another way of saying “don’t have sex until you’re married,” not only because contraception is wrong but also because it frequently fails the typical user. (Abortion won’t improve the situation, either.) Growing up without a father makes children far more likely to be poor, abuse drugs and alcohol, suffer physical and mental health problems, and commit crimes. All these factors affect children for their entire lives and virtually set them up for failure.

On a cheerier note, getting married will benefit YOU (you’ll be wealthier and healthier, both and mentally) as well as your kids. (I hardly need add that other offenses against chastity — pornography, adultery, divorce — are also bad for everyone.) Where, besides the family, will kids learn virtues like the ones I’ve described? Who will tell them to do homework, if not their parents? Who can comfort and encourage kids better than a mother? Who can better discipline an unruly son and teach a daughter self-respect than a father? In addition to being “the domestic church” (the first to preach the Gospel to children), the family is “the domestic school,” the place where kids gain practical knowledge about how to live.

So next time you’re talking to someone about Occupy Wall Street, don’t just denounce greed. Bring up honesty, prudence, and chastity: these are as important as charity in the development of a just, flourishing economy.

Thrift, Justice, and the American Way

My husband, patient soul, is not a big fan of documentaries.  They’re often dull, they’re seldom short, and they’re typically liberal.  (Why is it, for example, that the punchline of every documentary made since 1996, regardless of topic, boils down to “stop having babies, because we’re killing the planet!”  Bah, humbug.)

Still, I enjoy them, especially the greenie documentaries about food, health, and how the automation and industrialization of our nutrition sources is, overall, a bad thing.  Mankind has a duty, I believe, to shepherd and steward the fruits of creation, not only for himself but for the good of the whole (don’t cringe) ecosystem.  After all, we live in it, so clearly it’s in our own best interests to take care of it.  For me, this has always meant not wasting stuff, recycling within reason, having a little garden (or, in my grandparents’ cases, enormously huge gardens), and turning off the lights in empty rooms.  Now, as an adult with a family, little has changed about my outlook, except a newfound and sudden realization that thriftiness is, unfortunately, not always compatible with healthiness, nor even conservation.

Americans, per capita, spend less of their annual income on food than any other nation in the world does.  We might spend, say, $100 per month on cell phones, and $100 per month on cable, and $100 per month on eating out, and $50 per month on going to the movies, but all heck breaks loose if the grocery bill tops $200.  Why??  The focus of a mother, especially, can and should be on how to provide the best things for her family, not the cheapest, yet we consistently make choices that say the opposite.  I do it all the time.  One of my favorite lunches is quick, easy, enjoyed by my toddler, and only costs $0.89!  It’s a Totino’s Party Pizza!  Yay!  But it isn’t healthy.  Why wouldn’t I choose to spend less money on cell phones and movies, and more on feeding my family?  Because it’s easy to cut costs on food.  Processed food is cheap, readily available, quick, easy, filling, familiar…the list goes on.

We tried this year to have a little backyard garden (foiled at every turn by the deer and the raccoons), and the single jalapeno pepper that survived the animal onslaught sat triumphantly on the counter for weeks before I actually used it.  Next year, I know a little more and can plan a little better.  We don’t have pets any more, so indoor herbs are safe.  What else can I do?  There’s a line, I know, between slavish Earth-worship and actual stewardship.  What kind of things can I do to eat healthy, run an efficient home, but not put my support and/or money into a community sector that, likely, thinks the primary contribution I can make to conservation would be to use birth control like it’s a religion?  I want to find a Catholic approach to living, care for my family without unnecessarily counting the pennies, and strike a balance between  treating our earthly home well and realizing that, after all, it’s only here for us to use.  What do you do to have a healthy, thrifty home?