Many envy the super-wealthy, those who have so much money that they can fly off somewhere on the spur of the moment simply because they want to, or who can, on impulse, make a major purchase without having to eat endless months of ramen noodles as a result! Being a basically impoverished monk/Pastor/artist/writer living out in society I cannot imagine what it would be like to live a life that has no reference to a budget. And by that I mean to live a life in which impulsive spending has no consequences upon my ability to pay the rent, to purchase food or to tithe to my church. While the wealthy around us grow ever wealthier, for the rest of us many are only a couple of paychecks away from desperation.
Many of us envy the wealthy their money, thinking that if we had all of that money then all of our problems would no longer be problems, as if the ability to purchase without having to be cautious automatically equates with happiness! For many of us ordinary people it seems almost inconceivable that someone could be wealthy and, at the same time, impoverished! But it is possible. How? For the answer to this all one needs to do is to re-read the Gospel parable of Lazarus and the rich man named Dives. Wealthy Dives had anything he wanted, while on his doorstep huddled the beggar Lazarus who had nothing that he needed. Dives’ wealth enabled him to be oblivious and uncaring about the needs of others, even someone right on his own doorstep! In Dives case his wealth fed his narcissism; as a result, in terms of compassion for others he was one sorry, impoverished excuse for a human being. The moral of the parable is that it is not money that makes us rich.
“Riches” are found within the heart, not purchased online. A person who has somehow gained a heart that is compassionate towards and about the needs of others never finds his coffers empty. Mother Theresa and Siddhartha Gautama Buddha come to mind. Unfortunately we now live in a culture which is constantly awash in rampant, obnoxious commerce; every time we turn on the television approximately every 7 minutes we are subjected to commercials, the purpose of which is to convince us that we need, Need, NEED! No wonder we think that life is all about making money, and more money. And mostly… if not only… money! In such a culture trying to grow a compassionate heart can be like living in a foreign country without ever learning its language: you can do it, but not easily.
Compassion for others necessitates that we become concerned about their welfare; growing in that compassion begins with asking ourselves, “Do I REALLY need this newest cellphone?”