giving it all away

Wealth and poverty come in many forms, so many in point of fact that it is often difficult to accurately categorize those to whom one can say are wealthy and those to whom you ought label poor. What is wealth to one may well be considered poverty to another, much along the lines of the expressions “Beauty in things exists merely in the mind which contemplates them[1] or “Beauty, like supreme dominion is but supported by opinion,[2] both of which might well seem more familiar as in the expression “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”[3]

Rich Man and Lazarus

Rich Man and Lazarus

While at first blush this may appear to be pure sophistry that is most decidedly not the case at all. During a recent conversation I was reminded of this dissimilitude in our understanding of the meaning of wealth and poverty, and to a much greater extent than one might expect, to the degree our cultural, sociological, familial, and religious backgrounds shape our perceptions of the terms. The woman with whom I was having a conversation revealed to me that she was the eldest of thirteen children and that while her family was often financially on the edge of insolvency, they always considered themselves rich in so many other ways.

As the eldest of eleven children, I could easily relate to her family situation for in economic ways both our families were desperately poor. Yet we always felt as though we were incredibly wealthy, rich in the things that were most important: loving parents, faith in God, happiness, and above all else, the knowledge that we were loved, wanted and needed, that each of us was seen as a blessing and a precious gift from God. “My father” she told me, “always said that while he might be poor financially, he was rich in children.”

Wealth and poverty are subjective terms. Perhaps Hector Urquhart penned it best when he wrote, “one man’s rubbish may be another’s treasure.[4] Those who clutch to the belief that wealth and poverty are but quantitative measures, mere debits and credits written upon a ledger, are myopic at best and duplicitous at worst.

There are worse things in life than being either rich or poor financially as Jesus described in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus[5] or in his encounter with the rich man unwilling to give away all that he possessed. Jesus told his disciples at that time, “… many that are first will be last, and the last will be first.[6] In both instances, Jesus was warning those who focused all their efforts on achieving financial and physical wealth against becoming morally bankrupt.

It is the overwhelming attention given toward acquiring possessions that is inherently wrong. It is acquiring personal wealth at the expense and to the detriment of others that Jesus abhors. Jesus reminds us that “The poor you will always have with you[7] but he does not limit his admonition to those who live in financial poverty, for those poor souls are often the richest ones of all.



[1] David Hume, Moral and Political Essays, 1742.
[2] Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1741.
[3] Unknown, first appeared in print in the 19th century.
[4] Hector Urquhart, Popular Tales of the West Highlands, 1860.
[5] Lk 16:19-31.
[6] Mk 10:17-31.
[7] Mt 26:11.

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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