SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  PHILIPPIANS 4:10-19; LUKE 16:9-15 ]

We all need money.  Who does not need money?  Even St Paul needed financial assistance in his ministry.  He was indeed very appreciative and grateful to those who provided for his needs.  “In the early days of the Good News, as you people of Philippi well know, when I left Macedonia, no other church helped me with gifts of money.  You were the only ones; and twice since my stay in Thessalonika you have sent me what I needed.”  Money has its value and importance.  This cannot be denied.

But it is a different thing to have a love for money.  Money is a means not the end.  St Paul tells us that the love of money is the root of all evils.  “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.”  (1 Tim 6:9f)  So the real problem is not money but the love of money.  This was the case of the Pharisees who loved money as the evangelist noted.

For this reason, St Paul taught us to learn contentment.  He said, “There is great gain in godliness with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content.”  (1 Tim 6:6-8)  He said, “I have learnt to manage on whatever I have, I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too.  I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty.”  Even though money is useful and can be good for our use, there is always the temptation to greed and allow money to possess us.  To avoid falling into the snare of money, we need to practice contentment and indifference with regard to money.  Instead, we are called to place our trust in divine providence.  He said, “There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength.”

Only when we remain detached from money, could we then use our money wisely and objectively.  So long as we are attached to our money, we will look at people and situations through the lens of money rather than the lens of love and compassion.  If our loved ones are sick or even when our beloved pet is sick, we would do all we can to heal them even if it costs us much money to bring them to see a doctor.  Through the eyes of love, money then becomes only a means to an end.  We do not hoard money as our security but we use them wisely for the good of others and ourselves.

Jesus underscored this truth when He remarked, “No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn.  You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.”  Indeed, if we place money above everything else, we become very calculative in how we spend money on people.  But if we put God and people first before money, we would then employ our resources and wealth in such a way that they are always at the service of God and our fellowmen.   It is therefore important to examine where our heart is.

The truth, as Jesus said, is that money is not the most important thing in life.  He told the Pharisees, “You are the very ones who pass yourselves as virtuous in people’s sight, but God knows your hearts.  For what is thought highly of by men is loathsome in the sight of God.”   Money does not really belong to us.  We cannot bring a single cent to the next life.  Money is not meant to be kept but to be used.  Money has power only when used.  Otherwise, money is just paper.

What is more important is how money is used.  It is a question of stewardship.  Jesus reminds us, “The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great.”  All of us have to answer and give an account of how we use our money and wealth.  We can use them for good or for evil.  Unfortunately, quite often money is used to buy power, glory and status.  It is used for one’s selfish interests.  Indeed, if we cannot be trusted with money, then we cannot be trusted with any real responsibilities in life.  Because of money, we commit adultery and use sex to gain favours and win businesses.  Because of money, we are willing to sell our soul at the expense of our spouse and family.  Truly, many people because of greed cheat and steal, commit fraud and land themselves in prison whilst their family members suffer shame.

Rather, Jesus made it clear how money should be used.  He advised, “I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when is fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity.”  Money must be used for the good of all, especially in the promotion of friendship and unity.  We use our money to help people and to bring love and joy to them.   At times, money is used to bring about fellowship, especially in meals.  Quite often too, many come together to raise funds for a common cause.  This too strengthens the bonds among those who share a common cause, besides helping those who are their beneficiaries.

Indeed, this was how St Paul saw the purpose of money.  When money is used for the good of others, the donor is twice blessed for giving away his money.  He made it clear that he was not “talking about shortage of money.”  Rather, he reiterated, “It is not your gift that I value; what is valuable to me is the interest that is mounting up in your account.  Now for the time being I have everything that I need and more: I am fully provided now that I have received from Epaphroditus the offering that you sent, a sweet fragrance – the sacrifice that God accepts and finds pleasing.  In return my God will fulfill all your needs, in Christ Jesus, as lavishly as only God can.”

St Paul rejoiced not so much that he received but that the Christians could give.  In showing their generosity, it means that they have been touched by God and shared in the life of God. St Paul was happier for them than for himself who received their gifts.  In giving, they received a much greater gift, the gift of God’s love and joy. What makes us happy is love and relationship. What helps us to transcend ourselves is when we are in touch with our humanity.  Sharing always brings out our human emotions of compassion, sympathy and joy.  That is why there are so many philanthropists around even though many do not even have faith in God.  They arrive at a point in their life when they begin to ask what is there more to life than enjoyment, success and fame.  Only when we are identified with our fellowmen, their joys and pains, do we become truly human and humane.

What, then, is the genuine riches that God wants to give us?  He wants to give us love, friendship and joy.   He said, “If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?”  In other words, He wants to give us the fullness of life.  Who then is the happy man?  The psalmist says, “Happy the man who fears the Lord. The good man takes pity and lends, he conducts his affairs with honour. The just man will never waver: he will be remembered forever. With a steadfast heart he will not fear.  Open-handed, he gives to the poor; his justice stands firm for ever. His head will be raised in glory.”  Indeed, the man who is truly happy is one who trusts in the Lord, “takes delight in all his commands.  His sons will be powerful on earth; the children of the upright are blessed.”  With St Paul, therefore, let us trust in the Lord, that He will provide for our needs so long as we are responsible in life and use our resources for His people and for His glory.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore