Is superabundance wrong (example the Vatican)?


#1

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

Thoughts?


#2

What a great question to ponder… I’ll wait for someone with some of those to share to post…
Mary.


#3

What, exactly is “super abundance”?

I am thinking it applies to the living conditions provided to Adam & Eve before the “fall”. :confused:


#4

Jesus calls each individual to a specific degree and type of self-giving, if you will. As a general rule, we really ought to give at least 10% of our income to the poor in some way and to the church.

This is not a church law, but it’s a generally accepted practice, I think.

Full Disclosure: I don’t do this currently, but likely need to critically reevaluate my behavior in this area.


#5

Was the Temple in Jersusalem an example of 'superabundance"

It’s use of gold, silver and fine cloths were Commanded by God ( 1 Chronicles) and likewise the Tabernacle of the Ark (Exodus 26).

God even instituted a tax on all the Israelites to make the Tabernacle and Temple appropriately opulent

Yet I never heard Christ complain of the opulence of the Temple, in fact, He called it “My Father’s House” and preached there often, as did the Apostles after the Resurrection.

Likewise with the woman with the expensive perfume in the alabaster jar.

Note that Christ had no objection to the expense, it was Judas who would have rather the money be donated to the poor.


#6

In this post, I’m going to first start with the Church and Vatican.

You wrote:

“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.”

The Church (especially) the Vatican acquired it’s “superabundance” over time. It’s a collection of antiques, many of which were not worth much when acquired. But increased in value over time.

Except for the newest Church buildings, most Churches were built and designed using the “modern” architecture of the time & place. So naturally, for example, Rome has many Churches built using Roman architecture. California and the southwest were first settled by Spanish Missionaries, hence there are lots of older Churches there in the Spanish Missionary style.

Plus, people donated things to their parishes over the years. For example, a family or group of people may have donated a large painting or mosaic of the Virgin Mary to a Church. It was a gift from someone with Faith.

Should the Church simply start selling statues, paintings, etc donated by parishioners just because the art has grown in value? Should a parish sell their church building and move to a different neighborhood or community simply because the land value has appreciated? Or should they remain in their current neighborhood and continue to take care of their parishioners?

We are not all called to a vow of poverty, and neither are diocesan priests. But we are called to give alms. Being too fixated on wealth is sinful, but having wealth and using it responsibly is not sinful.

If a parish is financial hurting, and can sell some valuable art to create a trust; then perhaps they should do that. But liquidating all assets is irresponsible stewardship. A parish is responsible to taking care of the flock both today and tomorrow. Liquidating all assets to increase alms-giving or programs in the present is irresponsible towards the future.

If the Vatican (for example) were to liquidate all it’s assets, then they would be seriously jeopardizing their ability to lead the Church for next 1000 years. The Vatican depends on earning interest.

If you haven’t watched the movie called Monuments Men, I highly recommend it. It shows why a group of men felt it was worth risking their lives to save art from Churches, houses and museums from the Nazis. The Sacred Art in our Churches tell the story of the lives of those who came before us. They help us relate to them and experience a brief look into their lives.

Finally, whenever we enter one of those older Churches, with lots of art, we can spend many hours in that individual Church and learn history. Every stain glass window tells a story, every mosaic, every painting, every sculpture, every mural, etc.


#7

Right. It depends on what we are using them for. If we are using riches to give glory to God, then that’s a good and praiseworthy thing. If we are using them for our own selfishness and comfort at the expense of helping the poor, then that’s where sin would come in.

We could all benefit from living simpler lives though.


#8

He only suggested that because he had sticky fingers and kept the purse.:cool:


#9

If you believe that you have super-abundance, give it up and live simply.


#10

Going back to basics, we are each called to know, love, and serve God.

For some the circumstances of our birth (poverty, wealth, and everything thing in between) can become a hindrance to our individual relationships with God. For others these circumstances actually bring the individual closer to God. It all depends on the individual and the response they want to make.

In other words God gave you some, he gave others more, and he gave others less. What you do with what you have been given, whether little or great, is your choice. Rather than feeling guilty perhaps you should reflect on why you have this “superabundance” (your word) and what God is calling you to do with it? Are there ways to use these to bring you closer to God?

Just another perspective to reflect on.


#11

You mean like a cave family? I think anything outside of basic food, water, skins for clothing and minimalist shelter is super-abundance. Should churches (esp. the Vatican) also become reduced to the simple alters of Abraham ages ago - giving up all but the most essential items?

The guilty and ashamed voice in me thinks so. The part of me that enjoys superabundance completely disagrees.


#12

Okay. So maybe this is the problem. How did you come upon this definition, and where did you hear of this term to begin with? Having a car, or a phone is not super abundant to me. Having a Rolls Royce? Yes. iPhone? Meh, it’s not for me personally, but I don’t look at people that have them as being extravagant.

Gotta say, you are free to give up anything you find extravagant. But I think the term super abundant differs for people.


#13

Good point - could the Temple, the Vatican (as well as many lavishly adorned local churches) actually be examples to us that if we are good disciples (obey commandments, precepts, keep our passions in check, love God and love neighbor in our daily activities, be open to many children if married, give 10% to the poor) we will be lavishly showered with a hundredfold - possibly on earth - in this time - as this quote below from Mark 10 hints at? Should we pray for this, for God to shower us both with spiritual and temporal blessings? I feel guilty praying to be showered with temporal blessings. But I also admittedly want them - I love walking into nicely crafted mansion. It would be enjoyable to have.

Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. - Mark 10:29-30

Is it ok, if we are well-behaved children of God, to work diligently and honestly for a superabundance of awards on earth? Is it actually good then to pray for such things as well?

But then, this quote suggest we run a grave risk if we are blessed with temporal wealth:

*“Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” - Matthew 19:23-25 *

It seems here that the apostles are shocked - wondering if anyone can be saved, because everyone pretty much wants a super-abundance of wealth - especially if they are well-behaved children of God.


#14

Anything more than what Saint Francis lived with could be considered “superabundant”. So yes, a cell phone is not something he needed to become one of the greatest saints of all time.


#15

To a certain extent, the answer is as blunt as you would expect it to be: Jesus very frankly and without apology says that beatitude (that is: exceeding happiness) is not and never will be found through the superabundance of possessions.

However, this doesn’t mean that superabundance does not serve any function in building the Kingdom of God. Highly advanced & expensive facilities and luxuries, such as universities, cathedrals, museums, media studios, jetliners, space stations… the list could go on… are all the craftsmanship of mankind, and - by extension - the craftsmanship of God, and they can be immensely powerful tools in fulfilling the pillars of Catholicism: worship, evangelization, education, and service. Catholicism is not a religion of minimalists. It is, in a unique sort of way, a religion of immense excess. Not excess in terms of vainly trying to find happiness through fleeting delights, but when it comes to its corporal works, it does not stop at shoving rice into people’s mouths, making sure they have a roof over their head, and having basic health needs met. Just like God himself, the Church’s goal is nothing less than the extraordinarily transformation of the human being, and when it comes to our temporal deeds, that includes - and even demands - the use and implementation of some things that might be understood as “superabundant”. If we desire peace on Earth, every aspect of humanities’ divine gifts is required, and that does not exclude the human mind.


#16

Wow - this is insightful. So if the Church is uniquely excessively lavish in a good (but maybe not always a perfect way because we are human), then maybe God is uniquely excessively lavish in a perfect way - both temporally (thinking about the descriptions of Eden, of the requirements He placed on the design of the Temple, and the descriptions of the New Jerusalem to come) as well as spiritually.

And maybe it is good for me to imitate that unique lavishness (if God allows) as long as first, foremost and fundamentally I am striving to be a good disciple… And should God ask for me to give it all up (like the rich young man) or if He were to allow Satan to do so (like Job), then I have to patiently endure the trial.

Hmmmmm… Thinking this might relieve me of my guilt about working diligently for and praying ardently for temporal goods as well as spiritual goods. It also may relieve me of my confusion when I see very wealthy people step out of their huge Mercedes SUVs at my Church, and see religious walk into their fancy universities and monasteries.

Excessive temporal lavishness may not be bad if we can use these as reasons to thank God, reasons to share our enjoyed goods with our family and those around us, reasons to work more diligently ultimately to improve the human race in the small roles we play.


#17

:thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:


#18

Agreed, if God, our Father, is truly excessively lavish (Eden, The Temple, The Vatican, The New Jerusalem), then maybe we can actually feel good about enjoying superabundance too. And we can feel good about working diligently for it. And we can even pray for it.

One caveat being that all enjoyment should be shared with a loving thankfulness to God and when it makes sense with neighbor so that nothing superabundant becomes selfish.

And the second caveat is that when it is taken away (and all temporal things will be), I have to do my best to endure the loss with a gentle, patient, loving spirit knowing that God will get me to a better place somehow some way.

Now that I own things and have a family, I can better comprehend how painful Job’s experience was - and I should always be wary that God could allow something like that to happen to me.


#19

Ugh, it is so weird to think of being excessively lavish in a unique way like the Church as a good thing. It has been engrained deeply in me to think of a holy life as one that strives to imitate Jesus’ minimalist lifestyle (a simple carpenter, in a simple house, born in a manger). And it was Jesus who was blamed for being lavish, at least when compared to St. John the Baptist who ate crickets for dinner and honey for desert - yum. And there was St. Francis’ lifestyle of begging and going around building rudimentary churches. A lifestyle with no electricity, no cell phones, no cars, no automatic anything.

Yet - we need not look any further than Pope John Paul II who lived more lavishly than most kings do these days. And who can argue that Pope John Paul II didn’t have the love of a tremendously great saint?

I would be delighted if I could end my life just 1/100th as good as a disciple as he was.


#20

Everything you have purchased provided jobs for the people who worked to design, build, ship and sell it to you.

Thanks for helping to feed, clothe and house so many people around the world. :thumbsup:


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