THE reason can be found in that parable Christ told his disciples about the rich man, dressed in purple, and the poor man, Lazarus, who was lying at the rich man’s door, covered with sores and waiting to get even the scraps of food that fell from the rich man’s table. (cfr. Lk 16,19-31).
As the parable unfolded, both of them died. The poor man was carried by angels to the bosom of Abraham, while the rich man was buried in the netherworld. While at first sight, the parable might strike us to be unfair, since if God is a God of love and mercy, he should therefore be willing to save both of them.
But I suppose that without detracting from the universal love and mercy God has for everyone, the purpose of the parable is simply to teach us about the deadly danger of worldly wealth and the great redeeming value of Christian poverty and austerity.
Wealth in itself is not evil as long as we do not allow it to corrupt us. In fact, poverty and austerity can be bad if they are lived in bitterness and anger, if not hatred against God.
For wealth to be a good thing, it has to be lived with the Christian spirit of poverty and austerity. That means that wealth is used to give glory to God and to serve everybody else. It is not meant to be used for self-indulgence.
Money and richness can become a problem when we are led to get attached to them such that we cannot anymore give ourselves fully to God. They can blind us with respect to our duty to God and to everybody else. We may give the appearance that we are giving a lot, but if it is not the whole of ourselves, then it is not total self-giving which God deserves and expects from each one of us.
Let us always remember that God wants the whole of ourselves. He wants our entire heart, not a divided heart. He wants to be everything to us, the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega. He wants to be given priority over everything else, including our own life.
Especially these days when we are practically bombarded with so many tempting things, we should really be guarded, otherwise we end up completely materialistic and consumeristic, completely dead and numb to the spiritual and supernatural dimensions of our life as children of God.
We need to regularly check on what we have at the moment, what our real desires of our heart are, to see if indeed we are living the proper spirit of poverty and austerity that Christ himself lived. We know how easy it is for us to lapse into the opposite of poverty and austerity, like greed, envy, etc. With the way the world is developing these days, this practice of checking is very important.
Poverty and austerity allow us to love God and others properly. They clean our hearts of any trace of selfishness and self-indulgence. They make us simple, enabling us to develop many other virtues with ease. They rid us of unnecessary burdens in our life.
Poverty and austerity actually enrich us with a richness that is proper to us. It is the richness of being with God and in communion with everybody else. They enrich us with the love that channels the very love of God for us.