Is it a sin to be rich?

In our lives of faith, we hear the phrase found in Mark 10:25 over and over: “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Jul 31, 2015

By Father John Catoir
In our lives of faith, we hear the phrase found in Mark 10:25 over and over: “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” We also often hear popes, including Pope Benedict XVI and certainly Pope Francis, speak against, and denounce, the disparity between rich and poor in the world.

So, of course, in a country where wealth and material comfort are something to aspire to, we must ask whether it’s a sin to be rich, based on the various messages we hear in the Gospel, and from our spiritual guides and leaders.

My answer is that, of course, it’s not a sin to be rich. What’s in question is how wealth is acquired, how we use it, what place it occupies in our lives. We need to ask several questions: Did we acquire it in a moral fashion? Do we use it for the benefit of the world? Is it the centre of our lives?

It is quite possible for a family to have acquired great wealth in an honourable way. Some, however, may have ascended the glorious escalator to prosperity by the sale of drugs, or by thievery, or by dishonest business practices. That is wrong and sinful.

Perhaps the central question is not, Is being rich a sin? but, How are you using your wealth? Are you guarding it selfishly, with no intention of ever sharing it with those less fortunate?

That would be a sinful attitude. The money itself is morally neutral. The acquisitive spirit of greed is, however, a sin. Being rich also is morally neutral. How you acquire wealth and how you use it is much more morally relevant.

A Christian is called to something higher than just living for ourselves and doing the best for us — and only us — on earth. We are called to something more divine. We are called to follow the example of Jesus Christ who was concerned about the poor, the outcast and the less fortunate. We are called to imitate Christ in that sense.

That means every Christian should be concerned about the needs of others so as to be of help where it is prudently possible to make a difference. It goes without saying that we should strive to give a reasonable portion of our earthly possessions to those in need.

Remember that in Matthew 25:40, Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Our faith teaches us that life is consequential. We will one day be judged on our spirit of love, generosity and self-sacrifice on earth.

Often, love can lead to surrender and even suffering. However, each one has a duty to manage his or her wealth in a responsible way, which also means doing something good for the world with it. The contemplation of Jesus on the cross gives us inspiration to be generous as we strive joyfully to live and give of ourselves or what we have in this world.

However, balance is always necessary. We need to make a reasonable effort to be good. Take care of your family but prudently try to be charitable to others.

Sometimes, emergencies come to us out of the blue: a person pleading for financial help. You may feel a strong desire to come to the rescue immediately, but be cautious. We are called to sympathize, help and give, but being a fool for Christ doesn't mean you have to be a fool.

Should you need a compass to make your way safely on the journey of life, try this formula as your guide: Charity in all things.

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