Richness

By Rev. Canon David B. Tabo-oy

“ So powerful and enticing that it becomes our obsession to be rich in whatever ways and means and when we have it we cannot let go and let God rule our lives.” 

“You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” v22When the man heard this, gloom spread over his face, and he went away sad, because he was very rich.” Mark 10:

As of this writing, I haven’t heard if the Lotto jackpot money that has breached the billion pesos prize mark for this single draw has been won. For the past week it is very obvious that the windfall prize has attracted even the non-bettor to place his or her twenty four pesos worth of chance of becoming big time as shown by the abnormal queue even in the obscure lotto outlets! Why this is so? I believe that every normal person dreams of becoming rich – one time, big time! And there are several reasons of such a dream – and to some an obsession. A close friend intimated that if he will win the jackpot even not the solo winner he would help putting up church buildings, orphanages, homes for the aged and what have you that would somehow get the favor of the Almighty and grant the wish to win.
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But the bottom line of such dream of becoming rich is about the power of money. We must admit that money can buy everything (almost) as could be deduced from the fact that everything (almost) that satisfy the human cravings can be settled by money. In this context, the gospel lesson appointed this Sunday affirms these human desires. Let us go briefly to the Gospel lesson.
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While Jesus was on his way to another place in the province of Judea and have crossed the Jordan River, a rich young man approached him and asked, “What must I do to enter the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus told him to be faithful to the Old Testament commandments which the young man confidently assured Jesus that he has been faithful of these since he was young. He was a devout Jew! Then Jesus told him lovingly of the ultimate measure of faithfulness to God and His commandments: “You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” v22When the man heard this, gloom spread over his face, and he went away sad, because he was very rich.”
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This is the power of money and the pleasure and privileges that entice us. So powerful and enticing that it becomes our obsession to be rich in whatever ways and means and when we have it we cannot let go and let God rule our lives. This reminds me with the classic story about Faust written by Goethe. Those who are familiar with the story recall that Faust was a man who longed for romance, academic success, and wealth. Unable to find these on his own, he made a pact with the devil. If he could be granted his wishes, have his true worth made public and enjoy its fruits, then he would give his soul to the devil. Sure enough, he enjoyed marvelous romances, fabulous successes, and much wealth. However, when the time came, he was unwilling to keep his part of the agreement. I wonder if there would be a parallel breach of agreement or promise to my friend’s idea of putting up churches, orphanages, homes for the aged and other charitable works IF he gets the jackpot.
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Are there incidents in our longing and caprices that we have put Jesus off, promising, “just one more of this and one more of that – then I will be willing to follow you Jesus as your faithful disciple?” Indeed more often than not we are like little Fausts wanting to have it our own way – especially of being wealthy in material possessions. “Just let me win the Lotto jackpot and I will do this and that”. How convenient. We claim it to be our entitlement, we say to ourselves, I deserve this! But then what do we say to Jesus when he comes to claim us?
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John Wesley, an English cleric and theologian said that the word “rich” in the Bible means to have the necessities of life (food, shelter, and clothing) and then something left over. But the problem of us “rich” folks is that we have increased the number of things we regard as necessities. We want more than one car with different plate number ending so that we can travel on our private transport throughout the week. We want several computers to serve us at work, in the bedroom, in the sala and in the kitchen to guide us as we experiment our oido cooking. There are hundreds of things that we call necessities that our parents referred to as luxuries. The Bible says that shelter, food, and clothing are necessities. To have these and something left over, as almost all of us do, is to be rich.
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Let me share this biblical exegesis which I read from my Life Recovery Bible Version on verses 23-31. Most people in Jesus’ day believed that wealth was a reward from God for being good. Thus, the wealthy usually enjoyed a measure of prestige. Jesus amazed his audience by showing how difficult it was for the rich to enter God’s Kingdom. Wealthy people have a hard time recognizing their need for anything, and the only way to receive God’s help is by recognizing how much we need him. The rich young man needed to see his helplessness before he could be helped. But even this problem is not too big for God; he gets the attention of even the proud and self-sufficient. Many of us have learned through painful experiences that we are helpless and need God’s intervention in our life. God often lets us hit rock-bottom so we can begin to experience his healing and forgiveness.
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Let me end with this anecdote which I came across my readings and filed in my resources envelope relative to the subject of richness and self-sufficiency.
The devil was on the prowl one day out to get the Christian. When he saw the Christian he shot one of his fiery darts and it struck the Christian in the chest. The Christian had on the breastplate of righteousness so he wasn’t harmed. The devil shot at the Christian’s head but that was protected by the helmet of salvation. The devil figured everyone has an Achilles’ heel, so he shot at the Christian’s feet that were shod with the gospel of peace so no harm was done. The Christian smirked and turned around to walk away. The devil fired an arrow into the Christian’s wallet and killed him.**

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