If you are blessed do not be obsessed – Friday, 11th Week in ordinary time – Matthew 6:19-23
There is truth oozing out of today’ teaching. It’s clear focus is on the influence that wealth has on our lives. Many Christians may want to gloss over this teaching for it runs contrary to the grain of this world.
Christianity is often portrayed as a religion that kills joy. That of course is a lie that the secular world loves to portray. The world of today promotes joy as glamour, joy as being wealthy, joy as having the world at your fingertips…while these may bring you ‘happiness’ joy is something that has a permanent effect.
The teaching on wealth is not some damper rather it seeks to bring a sense of trust in God, that he will provide for our need and not for our greed. If today on TV, it is announced that, next month, sugar and coffee will be lacking in the market, we might all buy the most coffee and sugar we can. We accumulate because we lack trust.
We end up hoarding because we are afraid of an unknown future. We speak of keeping something for a rainy day; yet often it is not ‘a something’ that we set aside but ‘many somethings’ and finally when we do go looking for it we can’t seem to find it. This desire to horde has increased with the insecurity that surrounds us. Medical care has gone through the roof, children abandon their parents, banks collapse around us; our world has become so insecure. Most of us who profess the faith do not fall into that ‘super rich man image’ that this text builds up in our head but we do fall in the trap of hoarding little things because we do not trust in Jesus sufficiently.
The text of today also focuses on where our hearts really reside. Jesus says, “no one can serve two masters for a slave will either hate one and love the other.” In order to understand this text better we need to understand what the Bible means when it uses the word “hate.” In another text Jesus speaks of “hating father and mother for his sake and the sake of the Gospel.” The understanding of “hate” really translates as ‘love less.”
What Jesus is saying is that when you serve money you love it more than you love Him. We are called to love God with all our heart and all our strength and all our might. As Christians who seek to be rich, there could be a danger that we begin to love the creature more than we love the creator. Let us be clear of one thing; the Bible does not condemn wealth per se, it condemns the ‘love’ of wealth. Money is not the root of all evil but the love of money is! The Church does not make starvation of the poor a virtue but teaches those who are blessed wealth not to be obsessed with their wealth.
Sandwiched in this teaching is another one that focuses on the purity of the soul; It is a call and a challenge to strive for holiness in all that we do and see. We live in a world where visuals are created to dazzle and distract. Our eyes have to be trained to turn away from that which could invite darkness into our souls. It is through the eyes that sin enters the mind. No wonder Jesus was so emphatic when he said, “if you eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.”
The teachings of Our Lord in the sermon on the mount are demanding. Reading this sermon reminds us of what we as disciples are called to. We may fail the Lord, but our failing cannot be the last word. It is his love that raises us up. If today our heart has turned towards wealth and glamour and our eyes have drawn us to lustful things then let us turn to the Lord, trusting in his mercy.