Let’s face it—most people want to get rich. When we want to get rich, we actually love money. Show me somebody’s bank account and I can see what they treasure by where they spend their money.
But why is wanting to get rich so incredibly dangerous? Because the Bible cautions against it: “those who want to get rich fall into temptation and are caught in the trap of many foolish and harmful desires, which pull them down to ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9.) This verse declares that those who want to get rich give in to temptations and desires that ultimately lead to ruin.
The next verse explains further why the quest for riches is dangerous: “For the love of money is a source of all kinds of evil. Some have been so eager to have it that they have wandered away from the faith and have broken their hearts with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10, GNT.)
The Gospel reading from Mass on Sunday was from Luke 12:13-21, where Jesus tells the story of the rich man. This man was blessed with an abundant harvest and decided to tear down his old barns and build new barns to store ALL his grain and other goods. Then, since he had a bounty stored up for many years, he could eat, drink and be merry. The parable ends with an admonition: “But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”
Are you rich in what matters to God? Where do you?
I am not saying it’s wrong to become rich. Many of God’s chosen people in the Bible, such as Job, Abraham, Solomon and David were rich. In fact, we should all rejoice when God enables a person who has been a faithful steward to prosper.
Nothing is wrong with becoming wealthy, if it is a by-product of being faithful. The problem is when we follow the worldly path of our society and becoming rich is our primary purpose. And the problem becomes bigger if we don’t balance our riches with a godly purpose for our lives. And it escalates even further if we do not balance wealth accumulation with generosity.
How then, can a faithful Catholic overcome the love of money and the desire to become rich that is so prevalent in our society? You might begin by analyzing just what it is that triggers your desire for wealth. Is it comparing yourself to your neighbors or to other family members? Is is driven by a desire to be better than everyone else? Do riches signify happiness, satisfaction and power to you?
The ultimate way of escaping the quest for wealth is to submit to the Lord. We can do this confidently because Jesus overcame a huge temptation to become rich. After fasting 40 days in the desert, he was tempted three times by the devil. In the final temptation: “Then the Devil took him up and showed him in a second all the kingdoms of the world. The Devil told him. ‘I will give you all this power and all this wealth…if you worship me.’” (Luke 4:5-7, GNT)
Jesus was offered all the kingdoms of the world in an instant. Because of his complete submission to God the Father, He was empowered to resist the devil’s temptation by the same Holy Spirit who lives in us.
Wanting to get rich—loving money—closely parallels greed. And “greed is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5.) We have many idols in our lives today and they all stem from the spirit of the world. Money, consumerism, greed, and coveting others possessions, are just a few of the many.
Spend 60 seconds and think about your own personal life. What are your idols? Write them down on a piece of paper and put them in a safe place so you can pull them out from time to time and pray about them. Are these the things that God really wants you to be so focused on? Are these really more important to you than God himself?
Pope Francis sums it up: “If money and material things become the center of our lives, they seize us and make us slaves. Seeking happiness in material things is a sure way of being unhappy.”