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You Can’t Take It With You… But You Can Send It On Ahead

August 17, 2022 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By MSGR. CHARLES POPE

Part 2

(Editor’s Note: Msgr. Charles Pope posted this essay on July 30 and it is reprinted here with permission. Because of the essay’s length, we are presenting it in two parts. The first part appeared in last week’s issue.)

  • + + The Illusion of Wealth — The parable goes on to say, And [the man] said, “This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, ‘Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!’”
    And here we are taught that riches easily lead us to an illusion of self-sufficiency. We start to rely on self, and on riches, instead of God. But as we shall see the man’s wealth will utterly fail him before the night is out.
    Riches can buy us out of temporary troubles, but cannot help with the central problem we face. No amount of money on this Earth can postpone our appointment with death and judgment. Riches can get us a first-class cabin on the ship, but on the Titanic of this Earth we are no more set than the people in steerage.
    Indeed, because of the illusion it creates, wealth will more likely hinder us in our final passage. For it is only in trusting in God that we can make it to the other shore. But too much wealth and self-reliance hinder our capacity to call on the Lord and trust Him. Yes, wealth tends to create an illusion which cripples us from reaching our goal. Scripture says:
    Psalm 49:12 — “But man, despite his riches, does not endure; he is like the beasts that perish. This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings.”
    1 Tim. 6:17 — “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”
    Prov. 11:28 — “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall.”
    James 1:11 — “For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.”
    Prov. 30:8 — “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”
    An old Gospel song says, “Well the way may not be easy, but you never said it would be. Cause when my way gets a little too easy you know I tend to stray from thee.”
    The illusion of riches is well illustrated in the modern age. Our wealth has tended to make us less religious. Less dependent on God. But really, can all our wealth and power, technology and science ultimately save us? We know it cannot.
    Yet strangely we entertain the illusion of wealth anyway. And we think, like the man in the parable, “Now I’ve got it, now I’m set.” This is an illusion, a setup. And coming to see it for the illusion that it is will help us avoid greed.
    The Insufficiency of Wealth — But God said to him, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?”
    And thus we see the illusion give way to the reality of insufficiency. Scripture says:
    Psalm 49:5 — “There are men who trust in their wealth and boast of the vastness of their riches. But no man can buy his own ransom, or pay a price to God for his life. The ransom of his soul is beyond him. He cannot buy life without end nor avoid coming to the grave. He knows that wise men and fools must perish and leave their wealth to others. Their graves are their homes for ever, their dwelling place from age to age though their names spread wide through the land. In his riches man lacks wisdom, he is like the beast that perish.”
    Matt. 16:26 — “For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?”
    Money, wealth, power, popularity, and prestige can never really get us what we need. And it’s not just money. At the end of the day, all this world and all its riches cannot save us. Only God can do this. Here too is another perspective on wealth that helps us avoid greed.
    The Parable Concludes: “Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”
    As we have already remarked, wealth is not intrinsically evil. It is our greed that is sinful and gets us into trouble. And greed clings to wealth unreasonably and excessively. With greed we “store up treasure for our self and are not rich in what matters to God.”
    So, what matters to God? What matters is that we be rich in justice, mercy, love, holiness, and truth, that we be generous sharers of the bounty He bestows. And thus the Lord teaches us to generously share what we have over and above what we do not need. Consider the following teachings:
    Luke 16:9: — “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
    Matt. 6:19: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
    1 Tim. 6:17-19: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
    There is an old saying: “You can’t take it with you.” And this is true, but only partly. The Lord suggests that we can send our wealth on ahead, that we can store it up in Heaven, that we can invest it in eternity. How? Do we put our gold in a balloon and float it up? No, we send it up, we send it on ahead by bestowing it on the poor and needy. This can include our children and family members, for Charity begins at home. But it does not end there. Thus our generosity should extend beyond the family to many of the poor.
    If we do this the Lord teaches that the poor we bless will welcome us to Heaven and speak on our behalf before the judgment seat. The Lord says when we bless the poor our treasure will be great, and safe in Heaven. Further, our generosity and mercy will benefit us greatly on the Day of Judgment and help us, as St. Paul says above, lay hold of the life that is truly life.
    So, you can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.
    Therefore, this final teaching or perspective on wealth is to be rich in what matters to God by being generous, not greedy.
    And thus we have five teachings on wealth meant to give us perspective, so as to avoid greed.
    And trust God! Greed is rooted in fear, but generosity trusts that God will not be outdone in generosity! And while our greatest rewards remain in Heaven, God sends “interest payments” even now upon the generous. Scripture says:
    Prov. 11:24: “One man gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. A generous man will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.”
    Eccles. 11:1: Cast your bread upon the waters: after many days it will come back to you.
    Luke 6:38: Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give, will be the measure you get back.”
    Since you can’t take it with you, you might as well send it on ahead. Guard against greed by allowing these five teachings on wealth to give you a proper perspective on wealth.
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