Saturday, August 5, 2017
what rich means today
St Asterius of Amasea tells us about what wealth meant during his time in A Year with the Church Fathers. He says that making clothing from sheep is what God has provided for us. But if we buy fine cloth and then stain it beautiful colors, we're engaging in a vain form of waste.
That's a little different from today, don't you think? The poorest people in the world today are able to wear clothes that are made from "fine cloth" and have nice colors. Even in Calcutta, one of the poorest slums in the world, they don't wear sheepskins.
Today, even homeless people and wandering tribesmen in Africa have cell phones. (I know that sounds crazy, but read Abundance by Peter Diamandis and you'll see it's true.) There are 200 million fewer starving people in the world than there were 25 years ago. Click here for details. Poverty is claiming the lives of fewer people every year. Read this for details.
So what does that mean for me and you? What should we as Christians do with our wealth? St Ambrose said that if you have two shirts, one belongs to you and one belongs to the poor. While I don't think we need to take that literally, I think it is a sober reminder of how we should treat our possessions. I think of the movie Schindler's List to gain perspective on wealth. At the end of the movie, he is weeping because he wishes he had done more with the wealth he had. That he had saved the lives of more people. His car would have gained two people. His diamond ring would have gained another person. If only he hadn't been selfish. And this, coming from someone who saved more people in his lifetime from actual death than you or I ever will (most likely).
I just rented a car today, for a trip I needed to take to a friend's wedding. I'll turn that car in tomorrow. I probably won't ever see it again. It was "my car" today. If someone in the parking lot at the gas station had said, "Hey, is this your car?" I would have said yes. Yet, tomorrow I'll give it to the guy at Enterprise and it won't be mine ever again.
That's how all of our possessions are, when we think about it. Even our own bodies, in their current form. None of this is permanent. We think of our house, our car, our TV and bed as belonging to us. But in a very short time, none of it will be ours anymore. None of it will matter.
What will matter will be the people in our lives. The love that we've shared. The purpose that we've given them. The hope that we've sparked in them.
That's what matters.
God, thanks for the reminder that even though some things have changed, the most important things have not.