Wealth and Compassion

Perhaps it is the desire of most people to be rich. Most people think that either it will solve many of their problems, or they will simply be happier with more money. The lure indeed of that beautiful house, beautiful car, and the nicest things in life. In fact, someone once said, “I have been rich and I have been poor. Believe me, it is better to be rich.”

During the days of Christ, the understanding was, to be rich was to be blessed. That is why the Jews were so shocked when Christ said, “It very hard for a rich man to enter heaven.” Also, there was the rich man who could not sell all his belongings and follow Jesus. Now, in the Gospel you have a rich man, whose name Jesus did not give, not entering heaven. Why? Nothing was said about stealing the money. In fact, he seemed to be a kind fellow because he cared for his brothers. What was his sin? He did not care; he was not compassionate; he did not take notice of the poor that was just by his doorstep.

There was a study entitled: “How Wealth Reduces Compassion. As riches grow, empathy for others seems to decline.” Whether we are rich, on our way to being rich and just live normal lives, three reflections from the study:

  1. Wealth and Abundance may give people a false sense of freedom and independence from others. “Because I do not have to rely on other people, why would I care about your feelings? Why would I care about what you are going through?”
  2. Wealth and Abundance make it more tempting to have more. “This is what it is like to have a new bag or a watch. How I wish I could have another one.” If our neighbor has this or that, the desire to have more is even stronger. 
  3. Wealth and Abundance may breed entitlement. There was a study that showed the type of people who are most likely to cheat, lie, or steal. While we have this notion that the more wealthy the person is, the fairer he or she might be, studies have shown that the opposite. As people climb the social ladder, the focus tends to be on themselves more.

Hence in life we remember that all is only lent to us, including time, talent and treasure. When we transition to the next life, we are going to leave it all behind. Yes, death is the great leveler. The basis for eternal life? Whatever you do to the least of your brethren you did unto to Me. Hence, when God blesses us more in this life, may we increase our standard of giving and not our standard of living.

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