In 1929 in a particular part of New York city, several wealthy business men committed suicide, all at the same time. Why? Because of what became known as ‘the Wall Street Crash.’ The New York stock exchange collapsed over night and as a result many people lost millions of dollars. Many of them could not handle this and sadly they killed themselves. Money for them had become everything. It was their god and it had just proved itself to be a false god, an illusion. When their god collapsed, they were left with nothing, no money, no faith and apparently nothing to live for. It seems that many of them despaired.
A few years ago, a woman by the name of Maura Grealish—a good friend of mine and a highly qualified accountant—took her final vows in the Poor Clare convent in my home town of Galway. She took four vows: poverty, chastity, obedience and enclosure. She will never own anything of her own, she will not get married, and she will spend the rest of her life enclosed in a convent, dedicating her time and energy to God and to praying for all of us and for many others. Some would consider this a useless waste; others see it as the gift of God which it is, the highest calling in the Church. Her life lived in this way—as with any religious—is a sign that we believe in the life to come and that it is worth making sacrifices for it. If we didn’t believe in the life to come, then it would be a waste of time.
How are the two related? Well I suppose they are really the opposite of each other. Those in Wall Street and in the business world sometimes put everything into their money. Money becomes the only thing that matters. They work for it, they live for it, they may even lie and cheat for it. On the other hand Sister Gabriel, has given up everything for God, and is depending totally on God for everything.
Most of us are probably somewhere between the two. We may not be millionaires, but we have not given up everything for God either. We work and try and put bread on the table and provide for our families and loved ones. Most people are under a lot of pressure to pay their bills and mortgages, etc.
Money is an important tool. It would be very hard to live in our society without it, but it is only a tool. If we lost everything over night it would be very difficult, but we would still be alive. It happens to people every so often, but we do survive. But if God disappeared, what would we have left? When we died there would be nothing. Thankfully God does not disappear, regardless of whether we have more than we need, or barely enough to survive on. Either way God is waiting for us and when we have served our time on this earth then we will go to him.
In the Gospel Jesus says ‘You can not serve God and money’. We must choose who is going to be our master. That doesn’t mean that we can not enjoy our money or the things we have, but we must be careful to use it wisely. At the end of the day it is only a tool and if it was suddenly taken away from us, we would still survive.
When we live in a world that places so much emphasis on having plenty of money, it’s hard not to be affected by that. There is nothing wrong with having money so long as we remember that it is only a tool to help us survive. It is not primarily what our life is about. God has made us much deeper than just flesh and blood. We also have a spirit and that spirit will never be satisfied with material things alone. It is a reminder that we are not just animals and that we are called to something greater.
I want to finish with a few verses from Psalm 49.
No one can buy his own ransom,
or pay a price to God for his life.
In his riches man lacks wisdom,
he is like the beasts that are destroyed.