THE RICH FOOL
Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J
Table of Contents
“Then he told them a parable. There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink and be merry!”’ 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 one who stores up treasures for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.” (Luke 12:16-21)
St. Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises puts riches and poverty in their true perspective in the Principle and Foundation. We were created to praise, reverence and serve God. Every thing else is given to us as a means to help us attain that end. So we use them if they help us and abstain from them as far as they hinder us. Therefore, we should not become addicted to, attached to creatures so we can be free. Creatures are a means to the end they are not the end. They only have a relative value. God is the only absolute value.
WE LOVE PEOPLE AND WE USE THINGS. The most subtle and serious delusion of an affluent society such as ours is to love things, and to use people to get the things we love. People become a pawn, a means to an end.
THINGS ARE GOOD, GOOD IN THEMSELVES AND GOOD FOR OTHERS. Take for example the power in the atom. It is good in itself, holding the atom together, and it is good for others, in that it can be the source of energy and many other things beneficial to humanity. Evil is in the will of man, who can use this power to destroy humanity.
God made us STEWARDS OF CREATION. But we do not have absolute dominion. One day we will have to give an account of our stewardship.
PLEASURE IS AN INDISPENSABLE ELEMENT IN HUMAN LIFE. God put pleasure in the use of things to get us to use them. Self-preservation is the first and most powerful drive in human nature. God put pleasure in eating and drinking to insure that we will take enough nourishment to preserve our lives. Race preservation is the second most powerful drive in human nature. God put pleasure in the act whereby the race would be preserved. If it were not for this pleasure there would never be any danger of the over-population of the world.
BUT THE UNDISCIPLINED, UNRESTRAINED PLEASURE-SEEKING IS SELF-DESTRUCTIVE. We can eat, drink and work ourselves to death. Our desires always exceed our capacity. Anticipation is always greater than the reality, both in pleasure and in pain. There are limits to human power but there are no limits to human desires.
WHAT WE NEED MOST AND WANT LEAST IS DISCIPLINE. This is the battle of life. As infants we are guided by pleasure. But we never really learn. We will be fooled throughout our lives. We should be willing, at least at times, to sacrifice the short-term pleasure for the long-term happiness.
IF THINGS COULD MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY Americans would be the happiest people in the world. We have more things than any generation in history. Things will never satisfy our “transcendental neediness.” There will always be the “divine discontent.” As St. Augustine has it, “Lord, you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”
WE LIVE IN A CONSUMER SOCIETY. The danger in a consumer society is that we think “more is better.” This is a dangerous delusion. We begin by possessing things and end by things possessing us. Advertising is good. We need to know what and where to get the things we need. But often under the guise of alleviating needs, advertising creates new needs. It can also promote “conspicuous consumption” when we buy what we don’t need, with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like. The cultivation and expansion of needs is the antithesis of wisdom, freedom and peace.
IN A CONSUMER SOCIETY, SUCH AS OURS, IT IS THE CONSUMER WHO HAS THE POWER. The consumer ultimately determines what kind of clothes, cars and movies are made. I am a consumer and a polluter. I should take a good look at my life style.
It is true that “MONEY IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL”– but it is also true that money is the root of a lot of good. How could we run our schools, hospitals, nursing home, feed the hungry, house the homeless without money? The motto of our ALASKAN MISSION which is one of the most difficult in the world is: “Some GIVE to the mission by GOING, others GO to the mission by GIVING. Without BOTH there is no mission.”
The bottom line is, “WHERE IS YOUR TRUST?” Is it in riches or in God? It is possible to inscribe “In God we trust” on our money when our trust really is in the Almighty Dollar.
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