Giving it all away

The Roman Emperor and stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius is widely known for his words describing a philosophy of service and duty.[1]  In his book Meditations he wrote much on that which makes for a good life. He wrote “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.

Poor in Spirit

Poor in Spirit

A few years ago a friend, upon returning from a mission serving the poorest of the poor in a South American country, remarked how amazingly happy those who had nothing were. Living in abject poverty, they would offer literally anything and everything they had, and the joy they displayed when their gift was accepted was both genuine and heartfelt. Those who had nothing cared little, if at all, for what others might have. For them, life was good and they entertained “no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.”

All that was of true value to them was living their lives for the glory of God. Neither fame nor fortune was of any importance for the simple truth was they had no understanding of either. Life was as they lived it and it was enough. Marcus Aurelius, a pagan, wrote of the only true value of wealth in saying, “The only wealth which you will keep forever is the wealth you have given away.”

What is often difficult to learn is that a rich person is not the one who has the most, but the one who needs the least. Jesus described this attitude and approach to life with great gravitas when he related the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.[2]

When we reflect on what Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven[3] we are often forced into a paradigm shift, changing our perspective with respect to wealth and poverty. What we must come to understand is that two people can look at the same thing and see it quite differently. But what is paramount is that no matter how we see things, it is for whom we are living our life that is of utmost importance.

Our lives are not our own for they belong to our God who gave us life. If we live solely for ourselves, striving only for earthly treasure and pleasure, we will forfeit any and all eternal reward and we will most assuredly die poor. As St. Paul writes, “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s[4] we must live our lives for the glory of God alone.

Marcus Aurelius wrote that “the soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts,” a compelling metaphor for how our lives can be shaped and bent by what we perceive to be of value and importance. A life focused on the accumulation of things (money, power, fame) for the sole benefit of oneself is a life poorly lived. Indeed, it could be said that such a life is one that has not been lived at all.


[1] Marcus Aurelius, Meditations.

[2] Lk 16:19-31.

[3] Mt 5:3.

[4] Rom 14:7-8.

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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