Benedictine and Franciscan Poverty

His answer was, “I want to make as much money as possible in order to further the Lord’s work!” He did too. He and my mom were wealthy, but lived modestly and gave much money to good Christian causes. This is the way the laypeople are called to detachment: to realize what the money is for: it’s for God’s work. It’s for the good of the gospel. It’s for the kingdom of heaven.

What does it mean, therefore, to love all things according to their true value? Let us take a car for example. It’s true value is to get you and your family from A to B safely and effectively and with good value for your money. It’s a machine for transportation. You love it for that. You may also love it for it’s pleasing design, comfort and beauty. That’s okay. However, you do not love it for the reasons of status or showing off or feeling fine because you can afford a fine motorcar or for any reasons of vanity. That would be to love it for something other than its essential value.

Furthermore, if you can achieve safe and efficient and effective transportation by riding the bus or the underground train, then love that for its true value and get rid of your car. What would our lives be like if we evaluated all things in this way? We would achieve true detachment and a true simplicity of life. It’s worth remembering Chesterton’s line: “There is more simplicity in a man eating caviar because he likes it than a man eating grape nuts on principle.” Similarly, to enjoy something for its own intrinsic worth and to know its worth and to enjoy it with a grateful heart is simpler than affecting a “poor lifestyle” and to show off thereby. Showy asceticism is not allowed.

Judgment of others is also futile. When I was growing up as an Evangelical one of the big guys of the faith was a businessman called R.G.LeTourneau, who made a lot of money selling bulldozers or something. He was sometimes criticized for living a princely life with his own ranch and jet and big cars while professing to be a Christian. Then when he died it turned out that he lived his princely life on only 10% of his income. He gave 90% away. So don’t judge.

Instead get busy changing your own life. Be detached in order to be properly attached. Live simply. Love all things according to their true value. Use your wealth and your gifts for the good of the Lord and you will never be sorry!


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