Wednesday, November 6, 2019
A meditiation on Luke 14:25-33
Jesus says that everyone who does not renounce all his possession cannot be his disciple. Can this be true? For that matter, can he really be asking us to hate our parents? If our eye offends us, must we really gouge it out? And how are we to pray without ceasing? Christ, it seems, is constantly asking the impossible.
I had a friend speak to my Ethics class many years ago. This was someone I had met at Oxford. He was working now in the world of high finance. And by that I mean he had recently closed a deal to buy a business for nineteen billion dollars. He was also—and still is—a devout Catholic.
After his talk was over, one of my students (his name was Chad) asked him, “Are you rich?”
He answered in the affirmative.
“Really rich?” said Chad.
He nodded. “I have a house on the beach in San Trope.”
“But you are totally detached from that money.”
Again, my friend nodded: “I try to be.”
“Great!” said Chad. “Can I have some?”
There was a little gasp from the class. We all knew he wasn’t just going to give away his money to some high school senior he had never met. But on the other hand, if he was truly detached from his money, maybe he would.
My friend closed his eyes for a moment or two, and then he said, “No.”
“But I thought you were detached from your money,” Chad protested.
“When push comes to shove,” said my friend, “it is not my money at all. It is on loan to me by God. Everything is on loan to me by God: my money, my home, my life, my children…none of them, properly speaking, belong to me. Which is why I must be doubly careful how I treat them. If God was calling me to give away my money, I hope I’d be detached enough to do so; but it’s precisely because the money is not mine that I must dispose of it with great care.”
I can’t speak for the wisdom of my friend’s fiscal decisions. I haven’t paid income tax in twenty-two years. But I like to think that he and I have this in common: each, in the context of our unique vocation has renounced his possessions to be a disciple. One of us, however, has a four-bedroom house on the beach in San Trope. The other has a twenty-five-bedroom house in Creve Coeur, Missouri.