I’ve been taking photos for over 20 years, with very few exceptions as my very personal hobby, not for my living. I present the pictures I’ve taken on my humble, rather simple website, where visitors cannot rate them, so I rarely hear people’s opinions on my photos. But sometimes I have such an opportunity, and then the viewers express their – hopefully genuine – admiration and awe. Obviously it makes me proud of my achievements, but quite often my pride is being spoilt by a rude conclusion: ‘you must have a very good camera.’ Last autumn I published a few photos, and they were rated pretty highly. Some of the viewers were surprised to find out that the pictures had been taken with a simple and cheap camera. I made my point: it’s skills and talents that matter, not expensive equipment. Incidentally, have you got my subliminal message?
All today’s readings have something to say about wealth. The first one calls it vanity and great injustice; St Paul compares it to idolatry; and Jesus seems to condemn the fortunate man whose fields have yielded massively. A common belief is that seriously taken Christianity and wealth don’t mix well together. Apparent wealth of the Church irritates many and provides them with useful excuses or arguments. Undoubtedly some excesses happen, but many parishes can barely afford anything more than keeping themselves operational. Recently Archbishop Justin Welby presented an ambitious plan to oust a pay-day lender from the market only to be embarrassed when he found out that the Church of England had indirectly invested in that same company. Christianity and money don’t mix well.
Actually they do. Wealth is not a problem in its own terms. Let me recall three short passages from today’s readings: ‘A man who has laboured wisely, skilfully and successfully must leave what is his own to someone who has not toiled for it at all.’ That’s from the first reading; now from St Paul: ‘Greed is the same thing as worshipping a false god.’ And finally Jesus: ‘Watch, be on your guard against avarice of any kind.’ The Bible is filled with praise of hard working individuals, gaining financial success through their wisdom and skills. What the Bible does condemn is greed, avarice and the love of money for its own sake. Let’s look again at today’s gospel: for the man, his sudden wealth became a trap as he said to himself: ‘take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.’ Last week I read a really sad story about a former England and Arsenal football player, once very rich, now a homeless and penniless alcoholic. He has eaten, drunk and had a good time; everything has gone down the drain.
Christianity and money can mix very well. The latter can provide the means to develop ourselves, others, and the world around us; the former can provide the means to restrain ourselves and to stay sane in the wake of a sudden strike of good luck. What we really need in dealing with wealth is the right attitude. My good, rather expensive camera doesn’t boost my self-esteem or social status, but it enhances my skills. I’m not bothered about driving a cheap, not-so-good-looking car, as long as it takes me from point A to point B without breaking down. I would call myself neither poor nor rich; I have just enough to live on, and to be sure that people around me are friends of mine, not of my wallet. I’ve adopted one prayer from the Bible as my own: ‘Two things I ask of you; do not deny them to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that I need, or I shall be full, and deny you, and say, “Who is the Lord?” or I shall be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God.’(Proverbs 20:7-9) Perhaps it’s a good prayer for you as well?