Wealth and success

A distinctive feature of Luke’s gospel is his concern for the dangers of wealth.  Individuals can be so preoccupied with managing their wealth that they are fatally distracted by the real purpose of human life.  They may be so distracted that they will discover, only when it is too late, that they have wasted the only significant opportunity in their lives.

Luke’s concern for the dangers of earthy possessions derives in part from his observation of the effect of wealth on the inhabitants of his hometown of Antioch.  Antioch was a prosperous trading center where the extremes of wealth and poverty were clearly evident.

Luke does not condemn wealth as such.  What he does condemn is a preoccupation or obsession with riches that it takes precedent over one’s need to place the awareness of others and of their needs at the top of one’s list of responsibilities.  Wealth and talents can serve God’s purposes, but they must never replace God as the center of our attention in life.

How we respond to our lack of wealth is also a danger.  We tend to equate wealth with success.  If you are not wealthy, does that mean you are not successful?  Does it mean you have no purpose, that your life has no meaning?

Success is measured this way: are you closer to God now than you were yesterday? A month ago? One year ago? 10 years ago? 20 years ago?  Are you responding to the ways that God is using you in your vocation, be they single life or marriage?  Can others see Christ in the way you treat the members of your family, your classmates, your friends, your workmates, your neighbors?  Do you respond to God’s challenge to care for his Presence in the poor, the afflicted, the vulnerable, and those about to be born?  To the degree that we allow God to work through us, to that degree our lives are successful.

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