The problem of super-abundance is a really tough thing for me to wrap my mind around. And when I meditate on how I live entrenched in super abundance, in a culture that is steeped with it (in the US), in a Church that also embraces superabundance.
When I think about it, I feel guilty and ashamed. When I hope and work for more superabundance, my feeling of guilt increases even more. And when I pray for superabundant temporal things - I feel extremely guilty. So I try not to think about it. But today it came up in my head and I thought I would reach out to the audience to see what you think. Should I feel ashamed for the following? Or am I feeling wrongly and actually should ask God for superabundance? Let me frame this with some specifics for you to consider:
I live somewhere in the middle of the average American lifestyle. I don’t have a mansion or luxurious vehicles and we don’t fly to private South Pacific islands for vacation. Although, shamefully honestly - I could see myself enjoying such things and giving them to those I love. Yet, in comparison to the average lifestyle of human history (and of many countries even today), one could argue that I live more lavishly than the kings of ages ago who did not have access to those things we enjoy today throughout the US.
I truly enjoy super-abundance: I enjoy my smartphone, I enjoy the internet and computers, I enjoy my TV with piped in entertainment (and I don’t mean illicit entertainment), I enjoy the automatic windows in my car, I enjoy the radio, I enjoy my house: that has carpeting, bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, multiple bedrooms, has insulated windows (for cold days), has decorative features and has a pretty yard in a pretty neighborhood. I could go on about the many items I have that are superabundant things I have and buy for my family for living that did not exist at the time of Christ.
I also enjoy giving of my superabundance to my family whether it be jewelry to my wife on Valentine’s day or fun toys, books, bikes and other sporting good, and outings for my kids on birthdays, weekends and holidays. I buy nice furniture for them. I pay for nice food for them including very superabundant things like a variety of meats, vegetables, processed food, and deserts (ice cream, cookies and cake -not everyday). I pay for insurance to protect them. I buy them nice clothes though they would be fine in old clothes or bags to keep them warm.
Utilities too are superabundant - we don’t really need electricity, water piped to our homes to fancy sinks, tubs and showers, internet, piped gas lines, etc. All of this is something people can live with out (and do live without).
Do I give to the poor (assuming my family does not count) - yes, but only a small percentage of all that I enjoy and lavish my family with considering all of the above (and more).
*"…for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” *- Luke 12:16
Most Christian churches around me are lavishly dressed up in superabundant architecture and very expensive land and pay extraordinary amounts of money to keep them maintained and the utilities running. And of course, there is the Vatican.
Likewise, I am not alone in being immersed in super-abundance. Those in the US in general, are adorned with thousands of goodies and services,
Basically, all my family needs to survive is a source of clean water, a working garden and some rudimentary tools to work it, and some rudimentary walls/roof to shield us from the elements and some skins to protect us for clothing. As far as a neighborhood church goes, a stone alter and nice box for a tabernacle (and some basic vestments and a mass kit) would suffice, and some kind of cover for rainy days.
So here is the moral question that stumps me and triggers a sense of shame and guilt: Should all super-abundance be sold and given to the poor per Jesus’ guidance below? Do I live in flagrant violation to these instructions ? Am I behaving wrongly by possessing so much superabundance (and hoping for more)?
Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” - Matthew 19:21
*“Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.” *- Luke 12:33
And one final question - if superabundance is not bad or evil - can we ask God for superabundant things? (example: Can we ask for a working car, a nice car or a luxurious car?) Or would asking God for superabundance be asking wrongly as James may imply below?
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” - James 4:3