Do you remember this bible story? There were two men, a rich man and a poor man. The poor man’s name was Lazarus. There he was at the gates of the rich man and he was covered with sores.
Even the dogs would lick the sores on him. The rich man ate splendidly every day and poor Lazarus longed to eat the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. One day the poor man dies and he is immediately whisked to Heaven in the arms of Father Abraham. Sure enough, the rich man dies and finds himself in torment and flames. He looks up and sees Lazarus in the arms of Father Abraham and calls out, “Father Abraham, send Lazarus down here to give me some water.” Father Abraham says, “No, Lazarus is not coming to give you any water. You were well off in your life and now you suffer, whereas poor Lazarus was poor off and now he’s found consolation.” He says, “Besides, he can’t come down to you and you can’t come up to us. There’s a chasm between the two.” Then the rich man says, “Well then, send him to my family. I have five brothers. Tell them so that they don’t end up in this terrible place like me.” Father Abraham says, “Look. If they won’t believe Moses and the prophets, they won’t believe if someone rises from the dead” — a reference to Jesus, rising from the dead.
What does that story tell us? The rich man is not condemned for being rich. He is condemned for not caring for the poor. You see, God gives us everything we need to live. God even gives us the portion –– the tithe –– to be give back to Him. People tend to think it’s theirs and they tend to keep it for themselves. It isn’t ours. It belongs to God. “Give us this day our daily bread” applied to Lazarus. God gave Lazarus his daily bread. The problem is he didn’t get it. The rich man kept it for himself. That’s the problem of poverty in the world. The rich keep the tithe for themselves and don’t feed the poor. “The poor you will always have with you,” Jesus tells us.
So when we have poverty in our midst it’s proof that we’re not treating the treasure that God has given to us with the respect that God expects of us. Treasure is everything that God has given to us; it’s not just the money that God provides. It’s the food. It’s the shelter. It’s the clothing. God has given them all to us as a gift. Now in our society when we’ve become “self-sufficient,” meaning, that we’re more than self-sufficient, we can start thinking: “I’m providing for myself. I’m making that money happen. I’m earning the salary. I’m paying the bills. I bought all of this stuff.”
What do you mean God gave it to me?” Well, God gives us our every breath. God makes everything happen to enable us to have our job, our health, and the ability to keep the job we have. God has created the economy and He blesses us. I believe this. God has blessed the Philippines. I believe that when we get rid of our greed and look with humility and thankfulness at all that God has given us, we will realize how incredibly blessed we are in this country, and that God keeps on blessing us. We have so much in comparison to other countries.
When we look at treasure as a gift of all the things that God has given us, we need to remind ourselves that what God gives us is not our own. It belongs to God. He gives it all to us. It is like renting something, which we may or may not treat in the best way because, well, it’s a rental. Suppose you took it and never turned it back in, that would be stealing. In much the same way, God has “rented” everything to us. He doesn’t ask us to return it all back to Him. He says, however, that just so you won’t forget that all this isn’t yours, “I want a tenth of it back.” That’s what tithing is. God has given it all to you. It’s not ours, and He doesn’t ask for all of it back. He doesn’t ask for half of it back; he just asks for ten percent as a reminder that it really isn’t ours. That’s our constant reminder–– “None of it is mine.
If we look in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the third section is about the Moral Life and the Ten Commandments. The seventh commandment, “thou shall not steal,” is all about stewardship. Read it and you might be surprised by what is there. It’s about private property and about having an obligation. Private property is not an absolute. The goods of creation are destined for the entire human race. We can own it. We’re allowed to own what we need for ourselves, but there’s also an obligation to others outside of ourselves and our privacy. It has to do with justice and charity. When we do not give our money to the poor, we are stealing from them.
Everything we have is a gift. That means there’s this relationship of giving and receiving that’s very important to our Christian spirituality. God gives and we receive. Then on our part we learn how to give. Just as God gives us everything, we too, need to learn to give as part of this spirituality. This is not an intellectual process. These are actions that come from your heart. This is very moral.
So in this spirituality, gratitude means you need to be thankful. You cannot just think thankfulness. You have to act out being thankful by giving.
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