Spotlight 14/2019: Poverty and wealth

Can you be rich and be a Christian? Exegetes have been squabbling about this for centuries. District Apostle Raúl Montes de Oca (Brazil) picks up on this thought in our Spotlight series that highlights the Church’s annual motto.

In Uruguay, where I live, we had a President a few years ago who was labelled the world’s poorest president. Without analysing his ideological inclinations and evaluating his performance as a ruler, he lived frugally and far from a luxurious lifestyle.

Contempt for material goods—any fondness for such is equated with idolatry—is not only addressed in the gospel several times but also in the words and deeds of Jesus Christ Himself. Since the beginning of Christianity, the terms “poverty” and “wealth” have always been controversial.

While there are exegetes who argue that wealth—including material wealth—is contrary to Christian doctrine, there are also those who see it as an obstacle to the full spiritual development of the Christian. The difficulty of a “camel passing through the eye of a needle” is equated with that of “a rich man entering the kingdom of God”.

The truth is that neither poverty nor wealth can bring us any closer to God or further away from Him. While the Lord questioned wealth in many passages that describe His activity, we know that He was indeed only reacting to the sentiments of people. The riches that the Lord was worried about were those that separated mankind from God.

Those who are rich in Christ can appreciate and distinguish between the true riches that lead us to eternal fellowship with God and those that don’t. They

  • accept the admonitions to buy gold of Him that has been refined in the fire (Revelation 3: 18). This they can find in the word inspired by the Holy Spirit.
  • feel that they are rich because they have kept God’s promises: “… that He might make known the riches of His glory” (Romans 9: 23). They have been given the assurance that God fulfills His promises.
  • appreciate the wealth contained in grace: “… the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1: 7). This is fully experienced while partaking in Holy Communion.
  • appreciate the divine riches even in dark moments and on difficult and incomprehensible paths: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11: 33).

We are excited and look forward to the moment when all that has been hidden will come to light, and the inaccessible ceases to be so. This will be the time when we can contemplate and enjoy the riches contained in the divine promises unhindered.

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Raúl Montes de Oca
District Apostle, motto