On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 74: The Love of Money

“Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.” (James 5:1 RSV)

In our American culture it is the end of the calendar year. Most everyone these days must order their lives according to that calendar. Despite the fact that the Orthodox “New Year” began last September 1, most all of us will celebrate New Year’s Day on January 1. The schools, banks, post offices, and other workplaces will all be closed. The streets and highways will be empty at least early in the day for all who celebrated the eve of the new year late into the night before.

There are many ways that the world has deceived us into thinking that its ways are the “right and proper” ways to order our lives. Perhaps the most deceitful way is that because of the super-rich, the rest of us are considered “only” middle class or below. If we don’t have a huge income, bank account, or the means or ability to gain such, we are considered something less than Americans who have taken advantage of the great American dream.

We are lulled into the falsehood that we are not rich – that in fact we are poor. The federal poverty level for a family of four today is $24,250 income annually (for the purposes of eligibility for Medicaid). For the majority of the world (according to the U.N.) the poverty level is an annual income of $1,825 – that is $1.25 per family member (of four) per day for one year. The conclusion: we have been duped into believing that we in the United States of America are poor, when richness abounds everywhere.

The first Bishop of Jerusalem, St. James the Apostle, was truly scornful of the rich. But since we don’t consider ourselves rich, we often skip right over what he has to say in his Epistle:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. …You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter” (James 1:1-6 RSV)

St. James is saying that people with money (all of us) should consider what it is we have: a wasted resource that we cannot take with us when we die and that even now is in a constant state of decay. Hear our Father in the Faith, St. John Chrysostom:

“…Wealth, possessions and property: will they not all disappear? What reward have (the rich) got? Death. And what will their end be? Dust and ashes, urns and worms.” We have been warned!

This weekly series of brief thoughts on stewardship and Orthodox life is brought to you by your Diocesan Stewardship Commission.

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