All of the readings today speak of the danger of riches. We have seen how our culture fuels our desire for more – whether it be money or power – and the corruption that ensues in many cases when “more” is achieved. Clearly there are very rich people who do amazing and generous things with their money – Warren Buffett, for instance – but responsibility with wealth only comes from the development of a discerning heart and a life of understanding that we are, not just in theory, brothers and sisters in this world.
Psalm 49 begins with the psalmist calling for attention to “wisdom’s words” regarding riches as he develops his argument in a framework that we might call “you can’t take it with you.” Listen well, my people, you who live on earth pay heed. Whether you are rich or poor, born high or low, it does not matter now. For wisdom’s words apply to you… He then asks a question that we would do well to ponder, and answers it for himself. Should I be terrified in troubled times, when evil dogs my way, while those who trust their wealth to save boast vast prosperity? No, none of this can help us now nor buy the gift of life. Riches never bring us certainty, nor free us from the grave…Then the one certain thing is the psalmist’s conclusion: For the grave claims back our bodies and angels claim our souls, but the One with the power of life and death claims you always as its own.
As always, there is a balance to be sought here. It would be foolhardy to raise up poverty as a benefit, but striving over-much for wealth is just as futile. As I write this, I’m thinking of the family, the mother and her seven grown children, who just won over four hundred million dollars in the Powerball Lottery. They presented as a close and loving family and in the few sentences that the news channel allowed, the spokesperson and one other of them sounded balanced in what they proposed to do with the money. I will pray for them today and hope that wisdom undergirds their choices and love walks with them into a future that is filled with possibility. May they and all of us remember that we cannot buy the gift of life; thus may we hold it as a precious jewel and share it generously each day.