Saturday, July 17, 2010

Poverty in this world

"We spend money we don't have on things we don't need to create impressions that won't last on people we don't care about." – Tim Jackson, Prof. Of Sustainable Development, University of Surrey

Professor Jackson certainly has our culture pegged.

I am a product of this culture as much as anyone; being a Franciscan certainly doesn't make me immune to the thrill of excess. I want that new car, the dormer on my house, the prestigious job, more money in the bank to do with what I choose, more ridiculously rich food to shovel down my throat. We're all susceptible to clever advertising, telling us all those things we MUST have..."RIGHT NOW! FOR ONLY 47 EASY PAYMENTS OF $19.99...but WAIT! There's STILL more!!!!"

Part of the Franciscan charism is living in the spirit of evangelical poverty. I had a problem with that when I started my inquiry into the Secular Franciscan Order. Was I supposed to sell my home, live with my family in a tent with sackcloth and ashes, giving every scrap of money or food I was coming across to people who were poor through no choice of their own? No, of course not. The spirit of evangelical poverty does not forbid ownership of goods; it does not frown upon the well-to-do or wealthy either, I was surprised to learn. True evangelical poverty teaches us gratitude, to use goods without being "owned" by them. Poverty reminds us that we are merely temporary stewards of this world, and if we are lucky enough to live comfortably, we ought to share joyfully and without complaint. We must be so grateful for what we have that we can't help but share it with those who don't.

That being said, I have a long way to go. I LIKE my stuff, and I like getting more stuff, a lot of times simply for the sake of having it. And that's OK. Because it allllll about the journey.

Daily Mass Readings
Micah 2:1-5
Psalm 10:1-4,7-8,14
Matthew 12:14-21


  1. I think seculars have to struggle with this more than other Franciscans. It takes a lot of discernment and each person's responses are going to be different. I may shake my head at someone who buys a new SUV or a plasma TV, but I have a roomful (literally) of books that I can't part with and I don't want to even think about living without a computer. Does God want me to have a computer - Yes, I think God does. But I'm not sure about *all* those books.

    I don't have a lot of money, and sometimes I feel trapped by that. But it helps me to stop and realize that where I'm at is a result of choices I've made along the way, with prayer and discernment, not fate or the whims of an uncaring universe. There's a lot of freedom in that.

  2. Hi Tom
    "Stuff" isn't bad in itself. Like everything else, it is how we think of, use, and cling to possessions that make them good or bad. This is a very sobering post which gives us all something to think more seriously about. Thank you, Tom, and God bless you.