When we read life stories of the saints and heroic accounts of past martyrs, we often admire them for their holiness and courage. We oftentimes tend to idealize them as if they were born perfect and had no struggles, but they were just like us in many things. They became saints and were able to lay down their lives for the faith because they tried their best to overcome their human weaknesses and chose to love Christ above anything and everything else. This dying to one’s self is hard, but it is not impossible. It begins with us trying to love the Lord each and every day in our very own faith journey!
In his first letter to one of his close collaborators, St. Timothy, the Apostle Paul wrote:
Beloved: Teach and urge these things. Whoever teaches something different and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the religious teaching is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid disposition for arguments and verbal disputes. From these come envy, rivalry, insults, evil suspicions, and mutual friction among people with corrupted minds, who are deprived of the truth, supposing religion to be a means of gain. Indeed, religion with contentment is a great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it. If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that. Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains.
But you, man of God, avoid all this. Instead, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses. (6:2-12)
As we can see from St. Paul‘s writing, there were many similar problems that happened in the early Church that is still very relatable even nowadays. There were people manipulating the truth for their personal gains. There were fake preachers who perverted the Gospel for their own advantages. From all of those things came envy, rivalry, insults, evil suspicions, and mutual frictions that divided the Church from within. There were people who used the faith as a means of advantageous benefits. They corrupted people’s minds with their own love for money by selling lesser, prosperous, materialistic, and earthly versions of the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ. These false preachers took people’s humanistic desires and created a greedy, destructive, and dangerous version of a materialistic and transactional pseudo-religious and perverted version of faith. Hence, God is used in name and as a tool for their gain, grace cheapened, and faith became self-serving.
In a similar way today, perhaps even with good intentions, many preachers have perverted the Word and cheapened its spiritual liberation and freedom to something very humanistic and materialistic. So many have literalized divine blessings as something transactional! They think that if they believe enough, God will bless them abundantly with health, wealth, and anything else their hearts desire. When things do not turn out as they expected, they tend to think that they have done something wrong, that their faith is not strong enough, or that the Almighty is smiting them. The result of this poor theology often causes people to cheapen His grace and treat Him as a “vending machine” that dispenses what one needs if one does something right. One’s faith, then, becomes very dependent on what one desires or receives. Nonetheless, it easily gets shaken when the trials of the world come into their everyday lives.
In a Prosperity Gospel influenced world, we have equated material riches and blessings with God‘s infinite wisdom, goodness, and grace which are beyond anything that we could ever understand, imagine, or grasp by our meager finite, limited, and temporary understanding as human beings. These preachers have no problem using the Word of God to line their pockets and have a posh lifestyle. There is something wrong when all one hears from these services is different ways they want your donation and money, as if it soeme types of tools or means to prove our transactional willingness and generosity so God can bless us back in abundance. Yet, St. Paul reminded his close collaborator, St. Timothy, to compete well. He, in turn, asked us, too, to avoid those traps by fixing our eyes on eternal life, to pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness as to not let God‘s grace be cheapened and at loss.
We need to remember who we are! We are not disciples of some “make it rich” person or guru, but the One who gave His life for the salvation of all. Our Savior did not come to live in richness and prosperity, detached and reserved from the world and the poor, but to live like us in all things except sin. He was proud to be known as the son of a carpenter, ate and dined with sinners and forgotten, cared for the downtrodden and those who were smitten by others. He lived His life without many luxuries that one would expect from an earthly king, lest the King of the universe. Therefore, our Lord has given us a clear example of what we are called to be and how to live our lives of faith through His very life examples. We have to remember that the love of money, power, control, and prestige are the roots of evil. The greatest blessing is to find simple contentment in what has been given and blessed by the Almighty.
If we spend our lives coveting, chasing, and desiring all these earthly matters, we will allow our hearts to be filled with nasty envy and rivalry, always discontent, which causes us to use dirty or selfish tricks like insults and other less loving means to hurt others. We can never be happy because we are always suspicious and resentful of God and others because we never feel like we have enough of what we deserve! When we conditioned ourselves with what makes us humanistically happy, we will end up unhappy and discontent because human happiness is only hedonistic, temporary, and not really satisfying. Nevertheless, we are much more than anything that our society tells us that we have to be. Our scope is eternal and our reward is found in God! We are happy, joyful, and content because we know who we are as children of our Heavenly Father, disciples of Jesus Christ, and instruments of the Holy Spirit in this world and for one another.
Our lives are much more than we have or do not have in the earthly or materialistic sense. Our nobility and righteousness are not of this world or the ego but in our humble, heartfelt, devoted, faith-filled, loving, and gentle confession and witness of the love of God in our lives. When we become totally dependent and be able to be content with the immense goodness and loving gifts from Him who loves us, we can, in turn, become blessings for one another. If we are able to recognize our spiritual riches in Him, we will possess the richness that this world can never destroy, steal, or take away from us!
In all things, we have to choose Christ first and foremost. Above all things, our love has to be fixated and grounded in Him. If we are able to see and desire this relationship, we will recognize that we never run short on the things we need, and everything that is necessary for our lives have been provided for through the goodness of His infinite wisdom and divine providence. In my own life, I have learned that if God wants something, He will link all things together. If not, they are but disconnected dots. It can be frustrating in times of waiting; but once He opens doors, one cannot do anything else but be in awe!
I have learned over and over again that His love for us is so wonderful and beyond what we can grasp, and at times, all we can ever respond is to be in wonder and awe of what He had, is, and will do for us with childlike faith. It is hard to wait, to trust, and to be opened to what He has planned and willed for us because we want to see the results as we like them, but to truly rest and be content in His infinite goodness and everlasting love is something that is wonderful and beyond words, hence the only thing that we can ever wish for. When we are able to live as He wills for us in all its contentment and qualitative blessings, we are living and savoring the foretaste of Heaven where nothing can distract, shaken, or create distress for us, for our soul is filled to the brim and nothing more can be added that can make the present moment more joyful, content, and happy than the loving blessings He has already given.
May the peace of the Lord be with you.