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Using Wealth For The Benefit of Others

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by Chris Andreas

The following sermon has been provided by the Department of Stewardship Ministries of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also," (Luke 12:34).

Whatever you consider to be of most value to you, that is where your heart will be, whether it be the riches of the world, a fabulous home, land, or even great books of a library. The same is true for our families, our fellow man, our God and our salvation. Regarding salvation, our Lord Jesus Christ states vividly in a parable that, "...the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it," (Matt 13:45-46). Here, the Lord's kingdom becomes man's greatest treasure, and he is unable to detach his heart from it.

In the sphere of resources America is the most affluent nation on earth. For instance, we see one of our greatest cities, New York, as the financial capital of the world. Here we find Wall Street; some of the world's largest multi-national companies; a city budget in the tens of billions, normal size homes worth a quarter of a million dollars and up, billions spent on marketing through media; some of the world's greatest hotels. We also find LOTTO almost continually hovering in the tens of millions. Several of these characteristics are to be found across America as a whole where we also discover some of world's largest gambling casinos, contracts for athletes that also run into the millions per year, and some of the most magnificent vacation resort areas that money can obtain. We could go on indefinitely. And yet in the midst of all of this, we find abject poverty: people unable to pay for their room and board; families having little to eat; we find children roaming the streets without supervision and a growing welfare society with unemployment, higher crime and poor education for our young.
Quite often, those of us who are affluent fail to see the needs of those who are impoverished in one way or another, whether physically, morally or spiritually. The Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-32) is the New Testament’s prime example of such a problem. Here we have a man, a beggar who is full of sores, who places himself at the gate of a rich man's home desiring to be fed of the crumbs which fall from the rich man's table. Even the dogs from the streets come and lick his sores. The rich man, however, is "clothed in purple and fine linen" and eats very well each and everyday of his life. And what does the Lord Jesus teach us about such extremes and the attitude of the rich man? When they both die, as we all must someday, one goes to heaven and the other to hell. Lazarus the poor man is carried by the angels of God into Abraham's bosom whereas the rich man receives as his reward everlasting torments. What goes around, comes around, and now the shoe is on the other foot. The rich man becomes the impoverished beggar, and Lazarus is in the presence of God's glory. We now see the one in hell asking for some water from the hand of Lazarus to cool his tongue. He is refused, however, by Abraham who says, "Remember that in your life you received the good things, and Lazarus the evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented." The position has reversed itself for each man. The more we have in this world, the more we must answer for in the next. Lazarus had nothing, and his life was without value in the eyes of the world. But this was not so in the eyes of God, and Lazarus was rewarded with the Kingdom of Heaven with all his needs being cared for throughout eternity. The reward for the rich man, however, for all his worldly attitudes was everlasting punishment.

In Mark 8:38, we read "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Let us be truthful with ourselves: Do we not often allow our wealth to obscure our focus on our God in Heaven. Yet we know that truth lies only in Jesus Christ and His teachings. Jesus has taught us to love and to do all things for the benefit of others and not ourselves. A man's personal riches can indeed be a means toward salvation but only if he keeps his attention focused upon our one, true God and not upon the world nor himself. No possessions are good except by the good use we make of them, and the best use we can make of them is for the benefit of others. For as Saint John Chrysostom said, "A rich man is not one who has much, but one who gives much, for that remains his forever."

We work for the benefit of others both directly and through the ministries of agape within the Church. As the early Church taught us by her example, we place all that we possess at the disposal of God's loving care and service: our time, our talents, and our treasures. And this is the actual, true teaching of Jesus Christ.