Seeking spiritual prosperity

Homily for the readings of Sept. 22, Wednesday of the XXV week in OT, year II

What role does material wealth play in the life of a Christian?

According to the more radical Protestant preachers of the “Gospel of prosperity”, God will make you rich if you are a good Christian; wealth is a sign of God’s favor, and poverty is a sign of lack of generosity towards God. The proponents of liberation theology tend to the opposite extreme; the poor are “ipso facto” the chosen ones, and the rich are unjust oppressors, such that the poor have the right to rise up in armed conflict against the rich, take their land, and divide up the spoils.

But the Bible taken as a whole does not go to such extremes, even though individual passages may seem at times to take more radical positions. The first reading today gives us a good starting point: we should want to have what we need to lead a healthy and balanced life. Less or more can both be occasions of sin. Being too focused on getting more money can lead to dishonesty and theft, and a great accumulation of wealth can lead to pride and self indulgence. But neither wealth nor poverty is intrinsically sinful or meritorious.

As the psalm indicates, the primary focus should be elsewhere. We should value the Word of God above all else. Knowing God and how to please him should be our number one preoccupation; our worldly dealings should be guided and enlightened by God’s plan for the salvation of humanity. If God grants us wealth, we should use it responsibly for the material and spiritual good of all, especially those most in need. If He allows us to experience poverty, we should trust in Him and seek the best means to obtain what we need for a dignified existence for ourselves and those who depend on us, and we should be able to depend on the support of our fellow Christians. In either case we should keep our hearts and hopes centered on the love of God and the spiritual rewards of heaven which Jesus promises to those who live for God alone.

Some people are called by God to voluntary poverty. In the Gospel today, Jesus tells his apostles to take just the bare necessities with them on their voyages of evangelization. This is a special charism that is continued today by the many religious orders and congregations in the Church who take vows of poverty. Their willing renunciation of material possessions – lived in different ways according to their particular charism – gives them a special spiritual freedom that helps them to stay focused on their mission of preaching the Gospel without seeking material reward, and is a testimony to their faith in the heavenly reward that awaits those who renounce the world to serve God.

Let us ask the Lord today to send us his Holy Spirit to guide our use of material goods according to God’s will in our lives, seeking spiritual prosperity above all. May each one of us be a witness to the world of the love for God and eternal spiritual wealth that allows us to be in the world, but not of the world.


About Matthew Green

I am a translator, origami artist/teacher, and photographer, a blogger, former philosophy professor, and I love to sing. You can see my photos on Flickr and buy prints of some of them on Fine Art America. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter (@mehjg), and in various and sundry other social media sites on the web.
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