For many centuries in the Catholic Church there was a trend suggesting that to live in poverty was the way to perfection. Some religious orders – like Franciscans – were established in opposition to more wealthy communities. Most of the religious nuns and monks make three vows and one of them is poverty. Interestingly when the members of the orders lived with no personal possessions their monasteries became rich and wealthy. But at the same time they introduced agricultural inventions, many of them ran schools and were centres of cultural life; i.e. many ancient Greek and Latin texts survived till now thanks to the silent and exhausting work of unnamed Benedictine scribes.
Today the gap between the richest and the average is still quite large; but in the last few decades the general quality of life has improved and people’s lives have became more comfortable. Of course, we are talking mainly about western societies. Seemingly the problem of poverty concerns a relatively small number of people in our country. So, does the gospel lose its significance nowadays? I don’t think so.
Some vulgar interpretations say that the gospel condemns being wealthy. But let’s look carefully at today’s gospel. What was the rich man’s problem? Why did God call him: “Fool”? Because he was lucky to have a rich harvest? No. Because he decided to build new, bigger barns? No. His problem is this: “I will say to myself: take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time”. The problem concerns his attitude, not his wealth.
As usual in the gospel and in general Christian teachings, there’s one crucial moral thing that makes us wise or silly: the intention or reason. You want to be rich, you want to achieve something, you want to win something – that’s fine; that’s neither bad nor good. The reason, the intention why you want to do it is important. And this intention makes your choices bad or good, stupid or clever. The gospel is neither for nor against wealth. Jesus wants us to be clever in using earthly things, which are his gifts to us.