Practicing Love with our Wealth
What would you do if you were really rich?
Jesus tells a story of extremes: an extravagantly rich man (known as Dives) and an extremely poor man, Lazarus. The wealthy man Dives luxuriates at his table of delectables, while Lazarus lies hungry and dying right outside. hey both die, and Lazarus goes to a good life in heaven, while Dives burns in hell.
So is this parable a critique and condemnation of all wealth? Is it better to be poor in this life, so that we can be comfortable in heaven after death? I believe the answer to both questions is no. What this story is really about is compassion, loving our neighbor – whoever stand in front of us, whoever is in need. Dives goes to hell not because he is rich, but because he is unfeeling, unloving. He lacks compassion.
It’s easy to talk about the extremely wealthy in the third person. But here at St. Dunstan’s, most of us are very comfortable indeed. So our question is:
What will we do, since we are quite rich?
How do we practice love with what God has given us? How do we share what we have – food, time, money, expertise? Can we cut down on restaurants, and support a soup kitchen instead? Can we help at a health clinic or legal clinic for poor people? Can we volunteer as a counselor to people trying to get a job? All of these are ways to practice love, or in the Greek, agape.
Brother Curtis Almquist, Episcopal monk in Cambridge, Massachusetts, speaks of the delight we can experience when we practice love, or agape.
To love, in the sense of agape, is to participate in God’s generosity of love, to treat another person not with any preference for our own good but as an equal. Practice taking delight in the happiness of others, rather than feeling threatened or diminished, as if someone else’s happiness could take something away from us.