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Finances – Moving from a Me-Centred to Kingdom-Centred View of Money [F1]

Updated: Feb 3


For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34). If your money is placed first for self, your heart will be about self, and will lead to worry, whether you have little, enough or a lot. If your money is thought of as God’s money, and it is placed first for others, your heart will be about others and His Kingdom, worry is transformed into concern for others and trust in God’s providence. Let’s consider what the Bible, the Church and the Saints have to say about money [1].

Listen to the podcast here:


Opening Prayer


Father God, You are faithful in all of Your words, and gracious in all of Your deeds. You uphold all who are falling, and raise up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to You, and You give them food in due season. You open Your hand, and satisfy the desire of every living thing [2]. Give us the grace to see Your plan for us in how we should view and use the money that we receive or earn. Help us to trust in Your faithful providence of all of our earthly needs, and to rely on Your unfailing promises of heavenly treasures. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


1. Two Views of Money


The costs of many things are high and continue to rise. GST will be increasing. Financial markets are volatile. Global conflict worsens the situation.


As Singaporeans, it is very tempting (and perhaps understandable) to worry about money. It is more important now than ever before, to see and use money the way God intends for believers.


A Christian can have two views towards money.


· Me-centred View: How much of my money shall I use for God, if any.

· Kingdom-centred View: How much of God’s money shall I use for myself.


What is your view of money?


Testing our View of Money


What is your first thought when you receive your allowance, income or bonus?


Let me share what I used to think when I was in University (some 20 years ago) while you think about yours.

  • Allowance: S$70 per week.

  • Food (S$5 x 7).

  • Transport / Petrol for Bike (S$15).

  • Coffee Bean or TCC (S$10).

  • Supper ($10).

  • Extraordinary – CD, Presents, Books (using any savings from the S$70).

  • Sunday offertory or Youth Ministry collection or Charities Week (what’s left or nothing).

The same exercise can be carried out for students, working adults, married couples and parents.


In the end, we ask ourselves: do I have a Me-centred or a Kingdom-centred view of money?

"In Ictu Oculi" (in the blink of an eye) by Juan de Valdés Leal (ca. 1671), an allegory of death with a skeleton symbolising it. Below it are symbols of Me-centred vanities: wealth and power and learning

What we think of and do with money strongly determines what we think of and how much we care for God and His Kingdom. The Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12:15-21 reiterates this important principle.

2. The Parable of the Rich Fool


“And [Jesus] said to [the multitude], “Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And [Jesus] told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.””


Luke 12:15-21


Now, the rich man was not evil per se. But he was concerned only for himself (“lays up treasure for himself”). He was not “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21) or “rich in what matters to God” (NABRE translation of Luke 12:21)).


This is the big-barn syndrome. Do you suffer from the big-barn syndrome?


The Richest Man in the Valley

Adolf Washington tells this poignant story:


“There lived a very wealthy land owner in the Scottish highlands. His mansion overlooked a beautiful valley. He had all the luxuries of life but experienced emptiness in life. He had no religious belief too.


John his estate manager had deep faith in God. He was also a regular Churchgoer and was down on his knees everyday with his family praying.


One morning the landowner was looking out on the valley. As he gazed on the beautiful scene he was saying to himself ‘It is all mine’ when he heard the doorbell ringing. Going down he found John on the door step.


‘What’s the matter John?’ he asked.’ John looked embarrassed. ‘Sir, could I have a word with you?’


‘Sir,’ said John hesitantly, ‘last night I had a dream, and in it the Lord told me that the richest man in the valley would die tonight at midnight. I felt you should know’.

"The Bad Rich Man in Hell" by James Tissot (1886-1894), depicting the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. The latter is tormented in Hades for neglecting the poor Lazarus in his earthly life.

The landowner dismissed him, but John’s words kept bothering him, so much so that at eleven o’clock he took out his car and went to the local doctor for a complete check-up. The doctor examined him, pronounced him fit and gave him another twenty years.


The landowner was relieved but a lingering doubt caused him to invite the doctor [back to his place].


… When midnight passed the doctor left and the landowner began grumbling ‘Silly old John…upset my whole day… him and his dreams!’ Within moments, he heard the doorbell ring.


John’s little daughter was at the door with tears in her eyes. ‘Sir’ she said ‘Mummy sent me to inform you that my dad is dead’.


The landowner froze in shock as it was suddenly made clear to him who was the richest man in the valley.”


Have you been rich in what matters to God? Or have you been storing up treasure for yourself?


What is rich in what matters to God? Jesus explains this immediately after the Parable of the Rich Fool.


3. Do Not be Anxious


“And [Jesus] said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.


Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his span of life?


If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass which is alive in the field today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O men of little faith!


And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be of anxious mind. For all the nations of the world seek these things; and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things shall be yours as well.


Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 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. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”


Luke 12:22-34


Memorial window to Richard Alma Parkin at St Nicholas, Wallasey, depicting Matthew 6:33 "Seek ye first the kingdom of God".

Several key things to note from this powerful passage:

  • “Therefore I tell you” (v.22) means that this passage is directly linked to the immediately preceding Parable of the Rich Fool. As such, it would apply not only to those with apparent lack or have enough, but also those with an abundance (v.15) [3].

  • Jesus tells us numerous times (vv.22-32) not to worry or be concerned about self, i.e. how not to behave like the Rich Fool, who was Me-centred.

  • In sharp contrast (“instead”), Jesus says to seek His kingdom (v.31) (the Jerusalem Bible’s translation is “set your hearts on His kingdom”), i.e. be Kingdom-centred, to not worry and trust that God will provide for all of our earthly needs.

  • Being Me-centred invariably leads to worry (whether one is in apparent lack, has enough or has an abundance) but being Kingdom-centred transforms worry into concern for others and trust in God’s providence.

  • Giving alms (v.33) is one key and necessary [4] way to being rich in what matters to God (v.21) [5], and they become purses that do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, and which cannot corrode or be stolen (v.33).

  • For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (v.34) [6]. The key to having a Kingdom-centred heart is to place your treasure (including money) for others first.

If your money is placed first for self, your heart will be about self (seek ye first your kingdom), and will lead to worry.


If God’s money (and this is the way we should view all of our money) is placed first for others, your heart will be about others and His Kingdom (seek ye first His Kingdom), and worry is transformed into concern for others and trust in God’s providence.

4. Practical Application – the 4 “P”s: Poor, Parish, Parents and Personal


We now come to practical application – using the 4 “P”s.


A Kingdom-centred view of money means that we take practical steps to freely set aside, as our first thought, a good and generous amount out of any allowance, income or bonus, to be given to the Poor, the Parish, and/or our Parents or relatives who need support, before applying the rest for our Personal use.

  • Poor: Love for and giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity, and it is also a work of justice pleasing to God [7].

  • Parish: The 5th Precept of the Church requires Catholics to help provide for the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability [8].

  • Parents: Grown children, as much as they can, must give material and moral support to their parents in their old age, illness, loneliness or distress [9]. Material provision is to extend to relatives (and especially one’s own family) [10].

  • Personal: Our personal use of money is no longer the first (or often only) concern.

This does not mean that we give everything or even most of our money away, leaving little or nothing for our personal needs. Rather, the challenge is to prayerfully, freely and generously deciding and setting aside beforehand, a significant proportion out of every allowance, income and bonus that we receive, to be faithfully given for Kingdom purposes (i.e. to the Poor, Parish and Parents) [11]. Even students receiving an allowance can (and should be encouraged to) start doing this.


"The Widow's Mite" by João Zeferino da Costa (1876): Christ pointing out the hidden, true contribution of the widow out of her poverty

Doing so faithfully is a powerful living testimony that everything we own really belongs to God, and shapes our hearts to a greater and deeper love for God and others.


We become disciples with much less earthly attachments, and gain an enlarged capacity to be missionary disciples [12]. Yes, even and especially here in Singapore where money and materialism enraptures many people.

Conclusion


May the Lord help us to move from a Me-centred to a Kingdom-centred view and use of money, and to be able to trust wholly in His unfailing providence of our earthly needs and in His promises of inexhaustible and lasting heavenly treasure!


Closing Prayer


The “Suscipe” by St. Ignatius of Loyola


Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,

my memory, my understanding,

and my entire will,

All I have and call my own.


You have given all to me.

To You, Lord, I return it.


Everything is Yours; do with it what You will.

Give me only Your love and Your grace,

that is enough for me.


Amen.


* Is there anything in this session which struck you or any thoughts, experiences or ideas which come to your mind? Please leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you.


** Thank you for joining us on the A-Z of DiscipleSHIP. We look forward to having you with us again next month, as we study the letter “G”, for Gifts and Talents.


Recommended Closing Song:





Chris Tomlin, “Take My Life[13] or Karen Lafferty, “Seek Ye First” (Maranatha! se Brand) or or Dan Schutte, “These Alone are Enough”.

Recommended Reading: St. Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 12:13-34 (St. Thomas’ collection of bible commentaries from various Church Fathers on the four Gospels).


Reflection / Sharing Questions: For reflection / sharing questions, please download here.

F1 Finances Final Sharing Questions
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Download the slides here:

F1 Finances
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© Presented by the Catholic Theology Network (writers / contributors / sound): Dominic Chan (M.A., Theology, Augustine Institute), Keenan Tan (M.A., Theology, Augustine Institute), Nick Chui (MTS, JPII Institute for Marriage and Family, AU), Debra Dass (Diploma in Theology, CTIS), Marcia Vanderstraaten (Diploma in Theology, CTIS); publicity & design: Chandra Nugraha.


Footnotes


1. Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture references are taken from the RSV 2nd CE.


2. Adapted from Psalm 145:13-16.


3. “Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15). Contextually, Jesus’ words in Luke 12:15-34 flowed from and were in response to a man from the crowd asking Jesus to get his brother to divide the inheritance between them. Jesus’ response was that we should guard against covetousness / greed for earthly possessions (Luke 12:13-15).


4. Two Church Fathers opine that giving alms is not merely voluntary, but necessary. St. Gregory Nazianzen expresses his concern, “Now I fear lest you should think deeds of mercy to be not necessary to you, but voluntary. I also thought so, but was alarmed at the goats placed on the left hand, not because they robbed, but did not minister to Christ among the poor.” St. John Chrysostom puts it in stronger terms, “For without alms it is impossible to see the kingdom. For as a fountain if it keeps its waters within itself grows foul, so also rich men when they retain every thing in their possession.”


5. This is connected to the general exhortation of Jesus to “seek His kingdom” (Luke 12:31).


6. One of the Church Fathers, Eusebius, comments on this, “For every man naturally dwells upon that which is the object of his desire, and thither he directs all his thoughts, where he supposes his whole interest to rest. If any one then has his whole mind and affections, which he calls the heart, set on things of this present life, he lives in earthly things. But if he has given his mind to heavenly things, there will his mind be; so that he seems with his body only to live with men, but with his mind to have already reached the heavenly mansion.”


7. See CCC 2443-2449 and the numerous bible verses cited there (e.g. Matt 5:42, 10:8, 25:31-36; Eph 4:28; Luke 3:11; Jas 2:15, etc).


8. See CCC 2043. See also the Code of Canon Law 222, “The Christian faithful are obliged to assist with the needs of the Church so that the Church has what is necessary for divine worship, for the works of the apostolate and of charity, and for the decent support of ministers”. By “Parish”, this is shorthand to mean all of the above needs of the Church, and includes any of the needs of the Parish, the Archdiocese, ministries or apostolates, or even the global Catholic Church.


9. See CCC 2218. See also Mark 7:10-12.


10. See 1 Tim 5:8, “If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”


11. 10% would be an example of a significant proportion. See also Kimberly Hahn’s podcast on tithing (which challenges us to even greater generosity than what is in this session). To be clear, nothing in this session is talking about the false prosperity gospel’s version or motivation of giving / tithing, whereby one is asked to give in order to receive greater financial wealth. This is a wholly unbiblical and dangerous doctrine.


12. See also this video for the inspiring story of Linus Koh and Anne Marie, a Singapore Catholic couple who live out a Kingdom-centred view of money, how they stepped out in faith and founded Saint Max Story & Media (an evangelizing enterprise, which is a mission with a business) which served the media-needs of the Catholic Church and filled the gap during the unexpected Covid-19 pandemic, and how God supplied all of their needs. Saint Max (which is consecrated to Mother Mary) is the media company behind a substantial number of the online Sunday and children masses, Eucharistic perpetual adoration livestream, devotions, reflection series, formation videos, conferences, and Archdiocesan events, etc during the Covid-19 pandemic. They continue to serve the Singapore Catholic Church in amazing ways today.


13. Especially the part which goes, “Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold” means all of you including money belongs to God. It is a Kingdom-centred view of money. Only then can we genuinely sing, “Here am I, all of me… take my life, it’s all for thee”.

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