Thursday, August 4, 2011

Timothy, Amos, Money, and Getting a Grip

I'm still at the Catholic Marketing Network's 15th Anniversary Trade Show, working as gofer at my son-in-law and #2 daughter's booth. I'm taking an 'in-booth break' at the moment.

More about the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show and me:

Isn't Money Sinful, or Something?

As a practicing Catholic, there are a few things I'm not allowed to do. One of these is simony, buying or selling spiritual things. That's a really bad idea. (Acts 8:9-24)

I've heard simony explained as not being allowed to sell the blessing related to a string of rosary beads.
"...It is impossible to appropriate to oneself spiritual goods and behave toward them as their owner or master, for they have their source in God. One can receive them only from him, without payment."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2121)
It's not buying and selling that's wrong: it's pretending that someone can sell the power of God that gets you in trouble.1 Selling the rosary beads is okay.

I think part of the notion that money is bad comes from remembering part of a few verses in the Bible:
"For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains."
(1 Timothy 6:10)

"Let your life be free from love of money but be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never forsake you or abandon you.'"
(Hebrews 13:5)
It's "love of money," not just "money" that's bad for us. As I heard someone at the trade show say, money is morally neutral. It's what we do with money that's good or bad.

Worshiping the 'Almighty Buck?' Bad Idea

The Catholic Church forbids idolatry. Strictly (Catechism, 2112-2114, for starters)
"...Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc...."
(Catechism, 2113)
A favorite quote of mine is in this dialog from Fiddler on the Roof:
"Perchik: Money is the world's curse.
"Tevye: May the Lord smite me with it. And may I never recover."
And I'm getting off-topic.

Wealth and Moderation

I've been impressed with how often the idea of 'moderation' shows up in Catholic teaching:
"Desire for true happiness frees man from his immoderate attachment to the goods of this world so that he can find his fulfillment in the vision and beatitude of God. 'The promise [of seeing God] surpasses all beatitude. . . . In Scripture, to see is to possess. . . . Whoever sees God has obtained all the goods of which he can conceive.'344"
(Catechism, 2548)

Amos: Not All That Much has Changed

I can see where (mis-)remembering "money is the root of all evil" from 1 Timothy 6:10 and Hebrews 13:5: and reading parts of Amos might let someone think that the world is divided into wicked rich people and virtuous poor folks. Here's some of what Amos had to say about the Northern Kingdom:
"Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land! 1 'When will the new moon be over,' you ask, 'that we may sell our grain, and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat? We will diminish the ephah, add to the shekel, and fix our scales for cheating! We will buy the lowly man for silver, and the poor man for a pair of sandals; even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!' 2 The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Never will I forget a thing they have done!"
(Amos 8:4-7)

27 Centuries Later, People are Still People

Just over 27 centuries after Amos had his say, some things have changed. I don't think the epha is a common measure of grain today, for one thing.

People, though, don't seem to be all that different:
"1 2 Woe to the complacent in Zion, to the overconfident on the mount of Samaria, Leaders of a nation favored from the first, to whom the people of Israel have recourse! Pass over to Calneh and see, go from there to Hamath the great, and down to Gath of the Philistines! Are you better than these kingdoms, or is your territory wider than theirs? You would put off the evil day, yet you hasten the reign of violence! Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, They eat lambs taken from the flock, and calves from the stall!"
(Amos 6:1-4)
Like I said, misreading part of 1 Timothy and Acts, and selecting parts of Amos: and liberation theology might start making sense. Which it doesn't, and that's another topic. Neither does the 'prosperity gospel,' and that's yet another topic.

Bottom line, as I see it, is that being wealthy is okay. What the Church does is remind us that God doesn't approve of powerful folks taking advantage of people in a weaker position. Not that all rich people are oppressors. Yet again another topic. Almost.

It's "Blessed are the Poor in Spirit"

Jesus, Son of the Living God, said that the "poor in spirit" are blessed:
"3 'Blessed are the poor in spirit,4 for theirs is the kingdom of heaven....' "
(Matthew 5:3)
That's "poor in spirit" - not "poor." So, what's "poor in spirit?"

There's an advantage to being part of an outfit that's been dealing with questions - reasonable and otherwise - for thousands of years. Here's part of an answer to that "poor in spirit" question:
"The kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, which means those who have accepted it with humble hearts. Jesus is sent to 'preach good news to the poor';253 he declares them blessed, for 'theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'254 To them-the 'little ones'-the Father is pleased to reveal what remains hidden from the wise and the learned.255 Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross; he experiences hunger, thirst, and privation.256 Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and makes active love toward them the condition for entering his kingdom.257"
(Catechism of the Catholic Chrurch, 544)

"Love for the poor is incompatible with immoderate love of riches or their selfish use:
"Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have killed the righteous man; he does not resist you.238"
(Catechism, 2445)
There's more, of course. (Catechism, 915, 2443, 1934-1938, 2833 for starters)

"Equality," Not "Sameness"

As far as I can tell, poverty is okay, wealth is okay: and that what matters is what a person does with either condition. Coming at the same basic idea from a different direction:
  • Human beings are equal
    (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1934, 1935)
  • But we're not all alike
    (Catechism, 1936)
  • And this is okay
    (Catechism, 1937)
I could probably trim this post down a bit, and improve it in the process: but that would take time that I don't have just now. And that reminds me of writing techniques, editing, communication, and a mess of other topics.

Sort-of-related posts:

1 Simon's reality check, in Acts:
"6 When Simon saw that the Spirit was conferred by the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money and said, 'Give me this power too, so that anyone upon whom I lay my hands may receive the holy Spirit.' But Peter said to him, 'May your money perish with you, because you thought that you could buy the gift of God with money. You have no share or lot in this matter, for your heart is not upright before God. Repent of this wickedness of yours and pray to the Lord that, if possible, your intention may be forgiven. For I see that you are filled with bitter gall and are in the bonds of iniquity.' Simon said in reply, 'Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.' "
(Acts 8:18-24)

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.