Does the desire for prosperity conflict with religious values?
Rev. GEOFFREY KERSLAKE is a priest of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Ottawa.
Christians believe that we are pilgrims in this life on a journey to our true and eternal home, the heavenly Jerusalem. Jesus, by his very life, debunked the idea that wealth was a sign of God’s favour:
Jesus experienced profound poverty in descending from heaven to share with us the human condition as the great hymn in Paul’s letter to the Philippians reminds us: “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness” (Phil 2: 5-7).
Jesus, in the Gospels, repeatedly reminds us that we are to look after the poor; they have a special place in God’s heart. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells his followers that when they host a banquet they should not invite the rich, the powerful or the famous but rather “when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Lk 14:13-14).
St. John Chrysostom wrote: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. ”
Christians do not set their hearts on making money or prosperity, because God must have first place in our hearts as Jesus reminds his disciples: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt 6:21).
Some of the unhappiest people I have met are the ones who are so wealthy that they forget they need God. We are not to make money, or success, or power more important than loving God and loving our neighbour.
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