By Chris WittsWednesday 7 May 2014Morning Devotions with Chris WittsUncategorizedReading Time: 0 minutes
It is said that when Mother Teresa died on 5 September 1997,her only personal possessions were a metal bucket for washing herself and two cotton saris.
And when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 she wore her trademark one-dollar sari and convinced the organising committee to cancel a dinner in her honour,instead using the money to ‘feed 400 poor children for a year in India’.
Are all Christians called to follow Mother Teresa’s example and take a vow of poverty?
The problem of wealth
In one of the most confronting of the gospel stories,Jesus is approached by a young man who,in financial terms at least,is very wealthy. Thinking that he could win God’s favour by his good deeds he asks Jesus what he must do to ‘get eternal life’.
After the man had rattled off a list of all the religious laws he had kept since he was a child,Jesus looked him hard in the eye and said to him,’There’s one thing left: go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will be heavenly wealth. And come follow me’ (Mark chapter 10,verse 21).
Did Jesus mean that everyone should sell all their possessions?
Rather than this story being a blanket teaching that everyone who follows Jesus should sell all their possessions,it is a story about the things that get in the way of our relationship with God – and money is often one of the biggest obstacles.
Jesus was acutely aware of the seductive power of money and many of his stories reflected the tension it can cause in a person’s faith.
‘No-one can serve two masters,’ he taught. ‘Either he will hate the one and love the other,or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money’ (Matthew chapter 6,verse 24).
Paul,one of the early church leaders,echoes Jesus’ words in a letter to his protégé,Timothy. ‘The love of money causes all kinds of trouble,’ wrote Paul. ‘Some people want money so much that they have given up their faith and caused themselves a lot of pain’ (1 Timothy chapter 6,verse 10).
But Paul also made it clear that we have a responsibility to our families. ‘If anyone does not provide for his relatives,and especially for his immediate family,’ he also wrote to Timothy,’he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever’ (1 Timothy chapter 5,verse 8).
A life of generosity
Ultimately Christianity is integrally tied to generosity,not only in terms of money,but also how we use our time and individual skills to help others.
Christian author C.S. Lewis summed it up well when he wrote: ‘I don’t believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I’m afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.’
For Mother Teresa,it was simply a case that everything was spare.