The human person is uniquely different in the whole of creation because he is created in the image and likeness of God. So created, he is specially called to be a co-Governor with God of the created world. Here are the words of the Bible at the creation of man: “And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Gen 1:28). God blesses man, and gives him power over created things. Closely associated with this power is the responsibility to govern created things in a harmonious fashion. By “created things”, we include our passions and desires, wealth, possessions, and “anything” to which we may be related in a way. As we rightfully use these things we have a responsibility to govern them, and not to be dominated by them. So long as these things are under our control, they serve as a blessing. If however, we let these good things of life control and dominate us, they become a curse.
Since the Fall, man has always struggled with this tension. And the struggle continues. In Mark 10:21-22 when Jesus asked a certain man to go, sell his possessions and come follow him, the Bible says: “At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions” (v. 22). Note that Mark does not say he went away angry, but rather, sorrowful. This is the sad reality. How many people have exchanged joy and peace for wealth! How many people have become so glued to their wealth that any talk of detachment makes them sorrowful! Yet the truth is that wealth helps, but it is not a substitute for joy; neither is it a guarantee of inner peace. When you are in control of your wealth, you are interiorly detached from it; you are its master, and you have joy and peace. When, instead, your wealth controls you, you are attached to it; you are its slave, and you become sorrowful, empty and restless. Jesus is not against us having wealth. What he cautions against is our uncontrollable attachment to our possessions, and our selfish, insatiable quest for “more”.
In our desire for, and use of wealth, if we let it rule us they become our idol and god. When wealth becomes our idol, we become glued to it. When we become glued to wealth, we become foolish. When we become foolish, we misuse and abuse wealth. When we abuse wealth, we hurt ourselves and others. When we hurt ourselves and others, wealth becomes an obstacle to freedom, peace, justice and joy. Wealth in itself is good. But if we let it drive our passions and decisions, it inevitably turns into a harmful, destructive force. Many have hurt themselves by letting themselves be driven and governed by a distorted and unhealthy attachment to wealth.
The Good News, however, is that there are ways to prevent this tragedy. And one helpful way to avoid making idols of our possessions is to pray for supernatural wisdom – wisdom as a gift of the Holy Spirit. The wisdom from God helps us set our priorities right. It helps us to put love of God and neighbor ahead of “love” of possessions. It further helps us to discern the right use of the good things of life. The gift of wisdom helps us to see created things in God’s light, so that instead of being dominated by them, we dominate them. The Good News, again, is that when we ask for this wisdom of God, it comes with all the other things we need to live meaningfully. The Book of Wisdom (7:7-12) rightly says:
Therefore I prayed, and understanding was given me; I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepters and thrones, and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her. Neither did I liken to her any priceless gem, because all gold is but a little sand in her sight, and silver will be accounted as clay before her. I loved her more than health and beauty, and I chose to have her rather than light, because her radiance never ceases. All good things came to me along with her, and in her hands uncounted wealth. I rejoiced in them all, because wisdom leads them; but I did not know that she was their mother.
Inevitably, it all comes down to Jesus’ exhortation: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Matt 6:33).
Dear friends, the saying goes: “Easier said than done”. What we have said so far might seem simple to practice, but we all know too well that often we get carried away by our passions and ambitions. It is the more reason why we need to acknowledge our weakness and ask God for strength. We especially want to ask God for the wisdom that will guide us to make prudent and healthy choices with regard to wealth. What we have learned so far is that wealth without wisdom can be harmful to us who possess it. But, if we first seek wisdom, all our other needs shall be provided by the Most Benevolent God. At the end of this message, therefore, let us say the following prayer:
Dear Lord Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner. Wash and cleanse me in your Precious Blood. I acknowledge you as my Lord and God. In your Name, I renounce any selfish attachment to earthly things. Grant me the gift of wisdom, that I might put you before wealth. I trust you to provide all that I need. Thank you, Lord. Amen.