Secure your wealth by using it…to create jobs and opportunities for others
The readings, today, seem to be critical of wealth. But are they? Wealth, like all things God has given is morally neutral. It’s what we do with our wealth that makes it good or bad.
When we have wealth, two things happen:
1. We NEED other people less: danger = we think we can look after ourselves.
2. We have LESS URGENCY in our lives: danger = we can relax and lose focus.
And this, I believe, is the great warning in our readings today: don’t allow ourselves to become disconnected from our local community.
What happens in our community affects each of us – if not now, then in the future. In Kenya, as the rich get richer, and the poor are struggling more and more; the children of the rich will have to bear the anger and response of the poor tomorrow.
Our Gospel reading identifies Lazarus as an individual. However, in today’s context, I’d like to encourage us in Kenya to see Lazarus as a symbol of many young people in Kenya.
Many rich people have worked hard to achieve their wealth today. Sometimes they complain about the youth not being willing to work. Unfortunately, the world is not the same as when they were a youth.
While it is true that some youth are lazy or lack initiative to help themselves, there is an overwhelming shortage of meaningful jobs in Kenya.
By meaningful jobs, I mean jobs that will allow a person to raise a family and cover their medical, education and basic needs. While it’s true there are some labouring jobs in the country areas; the question is whether they really pay sufficient salaries to raise a family?
The cost of living has increased a lot. A young, healthy, single person can live on $5 a day. But can they thrive? Long hours of work, with long travel time, equals limited opportunity to do anything else. If you have a University debt can it really be paid back earning $5 per day?
I believe those with wealth, and who have less time devoted to working, have a real responsibility to develop industry and create employment. When those with wealth create employment, they guarantee the safety of their wealth for tomorrow. But when those with wealth simply “sit on it,” they create an uncertain future.
To our youth, always be active in looking for any kind of work: sitting at home will depress you, and inspires no one. But a youth looking for work and trying anything, always inspires. Be smart and share your housing and food preparation costs. And every week, save something!
I was struck by the harshness of the Gospel: “Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours’.”
It seems so unlike God. So, I think it requires a note today. Take the example of a person sniffing glue: after a while their brains are affected and they become incapable of recovery.
Likewise, wealth can corrupt us to the point where we have no ability to “come to our senses” as we heard the Prodigal Son say two weeks ago.
The more wealth – and power – that we have in our community, the greater is our responsibility to use some of that wealth and power to create opportunities for others.
When we are primarily using our wealth, privilege and power only for ourselves and our immediate family, then we will experience life like drug addicts: in the beginning, we are “high” and experience great peace and pleasure.
But, later, we become addicted to it, and we begin to become more and more selfish. The focus in life is ever more on ourselves, so that we only see people for what they can do for us.
Rather than see today’s readings as a condemnation of rich people, let us see the readings as a warning to all of us to use part of what we have to build up the community around us.
That will be our greatest security for tomorrow. We saw this reflected in last week’s Gospel where the steward uses some of the wealth of his master to win friends for tomorrow.
Wealth always fades away, but love and memories last forever. Wealth can lead to division and separation in families/communities, or it can build opportunities that bind us closer together.
The choice is up to each one of us: we all have some wealth. Will we use our position, our money, our authority to help others or to help ourselves. May God bless each one of us as we wrestle with our wealth.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI