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Jesus Christ, Lord of what I am and have (III): money

Continuing the theme of the past week, the Bible also states that all material goods, all possessions in general, the wealth and the money in particular, belong to the Lord. In the Book of Haggai, just to mention a very explicit text, the Lord makes it very clear the ownership of all wealth: “Mine is the silver, mine the gold” (Hag 2:8).

Many are the references that the Word of God makes to money and to material goods in general, possibly because man requires special guidance regarding the use of money and because the improper use of possessions has brought ruin to many lives. Is to be noted that two of the Commandments of the Decalogue: “You shall not steal” (Ex 20:15) and “You shall not set your heart on your neighbor’s house” (Ex 20:17) are related to a good extent to a way of evaluating possessions. Surely these commands are related to possessions one does not possess, but in both the Old as well the New Testaments there are many commandments on how to administer the money and the possessions in general and in what way we should relate to them.

The same Jesus Christ, among many other statements regarding money and wealth, said: “No one can be slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or be attached to the first and despise the second. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money” (Mt 6:24); and in many occasions warned of the dangers of the riches “In truth I tell you, it is hard for someone rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 19:23), or why we should not covet wealth: “Watch, and be on guard against avarice of any kind, for life does not consist in possessions, even when someone has more than he needs” (Lk 12:15), on why we should not store treasures on the earth, “Do not store up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth and woodworm destroy them and thieves can break in and steal” (Mt 6:19). Through the apostle Paul we can see how the riches expose men to temptation because “People who long to be rich are a prey to trial; they get trapped into all sort of foolish and harmful ambitions which plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim 6:9); and “the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Tim 6:10).

What was the problem of the rich young man? If we read the account of the rich young man in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark or Luke, we see how this young man said that he had kept all the Commandments of God’s Law from childhood, and Jesus Christ did not deny it, and as such, we do not have reasons to doubt his statement. After his encounter with Jesus, the young man left saddened. Why? Because it was the will of Christ that he should go and sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor, as to have a treasure in heaven, but he was unable to do so. The reason? The last verse says “for he was a man of great wealth” (Mt 19:22) And it is not because having a great wealth is sin or cause of idolatry, but because is not easy to submit the wealth one has to the Lordship of Christ and this is even more difficult when the wealth is great.

The riches are temporary and fleeting: “And it is there no longer” (Prov 23:4); “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (1 Tim 6:7); there is a danger of us leaning on them, forgetting the Lord, bringing pride into the heart (cf Sir 5:1; Dt 8:11ff). Money is a powerful rider as the proverb says, as it is often reason for seduction and spiritual sterility: “but the worries of the world, the lure of the riches and all the passions come in to choke the word and so it produces nothing” (Mk 4:19).

Some spiritual principles about how to deal with money and possessions in general:

  • We must accept that all that we have and the ability to have more come from the Lord, and there is nothing we can boast of ourselves. As such, and to begin with, let us accept that we are not masters of “our money”, but only stewards of the money and other goods, and that in an absolute sense they do not belong to us (see Parable of Talents, Mt 25:14ff).
  • We must be faithful in the administration of what has been entrusted to us, be it much or little, as in the Parable of the Talents (cf Mt 25:14ff).
  • We must be generous while giving, doing so “not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7).
  • We are not to strive for money, for “the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Tim 6:10); nor trust the riches, for as Paul advised Timothy: “Instruct those who are rich in this world’s goods that they should not be proud and should set their hopes not on money, which is untrustworthy, but on God who gives us richly all that we need for our happiness” (1 Tim 6:17).
  • We must be honest and honorable in its gain and stewardship, which is a quality indispensable for a good steward.
  • We must give to the Lord the scoop -tithe- offerings and alms (cf Gen 28:22; Lev 27:30; Mal 3:10; Lk 11:41-42).
  • We should seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as to use the goods with wisdom and for the glory of God (cf 1 Cor 10:31).
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