Reflections for the Week
An Invitation to "Maximum Love"
The young man who has “many possessions” thinks he is blest and so enthusiastically approaches Jesus, asking what he must do to gain eternal lie. He hopes perhaps to get an affirmation that, blessed by God, he need not do extraordinary things because he has already followed the Ten Commandments from childhood. What he hears from Jesus is a “shocker”: he is invited to sell his possessions, give to the poor, and follow Jesus.
Jesus does not ask this of every follower. It is because, looking at the earnest young man, Jesus “loved him.” Love for him makes Jesus reveal to him the secret of the Kingdom, the key to true joy and lasting peace. So Jesus asks him to make a radical compromise. The young man, however, fails to measure up to the greatest challenge of his life. His wealth, instead of being a blessing, becomes a stumbling block to his gaining eternal life.
Jesus has been clear about discipleship from the beginning: it is a dying to self, a carrying of the cross after him. Salvation is no “cheap grace.” Eternal life is not gained the easy way. The young man does not steal because he has more than enough. Compared to the less fortunate, he has all the reasons to follow the commandments because he “owes” it to God for blessing him. But the case of give-and-take is beside the issue. It is rather the choice between the Kingdom of God and money. “No servant can serve two masters,” Jesus says. “You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Lk 16:13) Once money becomes the most important thing, the person is already worshipping it as his “god.”
In the story of the young man, Jesus defines discipleship not as a masochistic scorn for material goods but as a life of “maximum love.” The “culture” of the Kingdom, revealed by this discipleship, has much to say to a world bedevilled by materialism. Riches signify so many things: proud self-sufficiency, the supremacy of the law of profit over that of morality, the utter inequality in the use of the earth’s goods, the search for pleasure and vanity.
But all of these are empty, all vanity! True joy can come only with love that continually gives more, even to
365 Days with the Lord Gil Alinsangan SSP
The Victorian age is seen as a great time for philanthropy, when people who had made vast fortunes out of newly industrialised processes and factories felt a responsibility to use that money for the good of their local community. For example, George Cadbury, a Quaker born in 1839, was very committed to using some of his wealth - made from sales of chocolate - to build a model town. He called it Bournville and built attractive houses, a school and a hospital for the workers who made the chocolate and for their families. He also provided facilities for recreation and leisure. His motivation was his faith, since he said that one could do nothing for God, “except in acts of genuine helpfulness done to our fellow men.” The village can still be seen today, just outside of Birmingham in England.
Today it has been reported that there is a new spirit of “modern” philanthropy - modern, but essentially based on the same principles of using one’s own wealth to give opportunities to others. In a world of globalised business, it is perhaps fitting that these generous acts are not restricted to the local community but aim to tackle poverty worldwide. One of the most famous examples of modern philanthropy is Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft. In 2005 he gave $750 million to a worldwide infant vaccination programme, and has also given money for research into malaria, HIV and TB. One of the aims of the charitable trust that Bill Gates set up is to “reduce the unconscionable disparity between the way that we live and the way that the people of the developing world live.”
The rich man in the Gospel is not able to see that everything he has is given to him as a gift from God. Instead of responding to God’s generosity by being generous himself, and sharing what he has, he holds on to what he has got. His treasure is a collection of material goods, not the true treasures of faith, love and wisdom.
Jesus gives us so many reminders of the dangers of wealth in his parables, because the call of money, status and security is so attractive and alluring that it can easily take our minds and hearts away from God, and make us selfish and unloving, hoarding instead of generous.
Money, in itself, is neither good nor bad. It can be hoarded for selfish use, it can be spent excessively and showily for status reasons, or it can be shared with those who have less than we do. What we decide to do with what we have is one way of telling where our heart truly lies.
Jesus tells us that we cannot serve two masters: it is God or money. It is a question of trust and dependence. Do we trust in what we have accumulated, or do we depend on God? Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, in Nigeria, recently said on a visit to the UK that there is terrible poverty in Nigeria, but there is also great wealth. He said that this wealth is concentrated in the few who have benefited from Nigeria’s oil - the rich elite. But he went on: “There is also the wealth of those who live in poverty - the wealth that comes from living in solidarity with each other and acknowledging our dependence on God. People who are poor know what it means to depend on God and trust in one another - this is what the rich need to learn.”
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