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Homily for 11/7/10 - P24 - Acquiring God's gifts

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  • Fr David Moser
    Luke 16:19-31 We all like to spend money, somehow there seems to be some intrinsic joy in just going on a buying spree. For many there is the additional
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 7, 2010
      Luke 16:19-31

      We all like to spend money, somehow there seems to be some intrinsic joy
      in just going on a buying spree. For many there is the additional
      pleasure comes from acquiring things that goes with spending money. We
      love to get all kinds of things and hang onto them. For some it is
      beautiful things, for others it is useful things, or maybe quirky
      things, personal things, funny things, and so on. Most everyone likes
      getting things. As we enter the Christmas holiday pre-season, that love
      of acquiring things comes into its own as we begin to contemplate
      acquiring more things – either as gifts to give to someone else (and
      thus sharing our joy) or as gifts we receive. Acquisitiveness is a
      passion that is natural to our soul, however, like all passions, if we
      overdo it or misuse it, that natural passion becomes sinful.

      The rich man in the Gospel parable today was someone who had acquired
      many things. He was not generally mean spirited for while he enjoyed the
      things that he acquired, he also shared those things with his friends
      and other like minded people. However, he did enjoy acquiring and
      surrounding himself with “the finer things” in life – fine food and
      drink, beautiful clothes, cultured friends and acquaintances and so on.
      He did not, it seems, even notice those things which did not fit into
      his likes and desires. One of those who remained unnoticed by him was
      the poor beggar Lazarus. There is no indication in this parable that the
      rich man was cruel or purposefully tormented Lazarus, rather it seems
      that he was completely unaware of Lazarus’ existence and thus overlooked
      his presence, not noticing his poverty, his illness and his great need.
      This rich man was not particularly evil, however, he was overwhelmed by
      the passion of acquisitiveness.

      Acquisitiveness, when properly used instills in us the desire to get the
      good things that God offers to us. We are drawn towards God’s provision
      for we want to acquire the blessings, virtues and salvation that God
      gives. This zeal to get the spiritual gifts is the proper use and venue
      of acquisitiveness. The desire to acquire worldly things is a secondary
      effect which relates to our dual nature as physical/spiritual beings.
      However, the corrupted nature which we inherited from our first parents
      Adam and Eve has already confused our acquisitiveness so that it is no
      longer directed mainly towards acquiring the spiritual good things that
      lead to our salvation, but instead is directed towards the acquisition
      of worldly things which bring worldly joy and comfort but no spiritual

      To be rich or to have many worldly things is not in and of itself
      sinful, however, when the possession or acquisition of those things
      becomes an end in and of itself, then sin enters in. When we acquire or
      possess things but do not use them for their intended purpose, then sin
      enters in. When our acquisitiveness becomes self centered and causes us
      to lose sight of God and of our neighbor, then sin enters in. It seems
      good then, to consider what is the proper direction of our natural
      acquisitiveness and the proper use of those things which we do acquire.

      All things, the scripture tells us, work together for good for those who
      love the Lord. St Seraphim likens the Christian life to the life of a
      merchant who has assets which can be spent to acquire goods however
      those assets must be spent wisely always seeking to purchase those goods
      which will bring the best profit and maximize the return on investment.
      We must remember that the proper purpose of all that God gives to us is
      for the working out of our salvation. We should use everything that we
      have to that goal. Thus the worldly things that we have are not ends in
      and of themselves, but are given to us so that we might use them in such
      a way that we draw nearer to God and acquire His grace. Wealth, the
      abundance of worldly goods, is given to us by God not for our own ease
      and enjoyment. This is given to us so that we might use all these
      worldly goods to do the will of God in the world. One of the problems
      that the rich man of the parable had was his self centeredness. He
      simply closed his eyes to anything that did not meet with his approval
      or prejudices. Thus he did not even notice the poor Lazarus at his gate
      who suffered from hunger and disease – he did not even see this need.
      The rich man of the parable exemplifies the plight of those who at the
      great judgment are told by the Lord, “When I was hungry you did not feed
      me; when I was thirsty you gave me no drink; when I was naked you did
      not clothe me; when I was sick or in prison you did not visit me.” And
      when they heard this they said, “When did we see you hungry or thirsty
      or naked or sick or in prison?” Because of their self absorption, these
      condemned ones were completely unaware of the many opportunities to
      serve Christ around them. So was the rich man who was completely unaware
      of the poor, hungry, thirsty, naked and sick Lazarus who lay at his
      gate. Thus one of the first things that we must do in order to use what
      God has given to us in this world is to open our eyes, to see not only
      those things which please our senses and sensibilities, but also to see
      those who are in need. Then we must use all that God has given to us to
      express His love and His compassion to the world simply by using what we
      have to care for those around us that we see with our opened eyes. St
      Gregory Palamas points out to us the great love of God for mankind which
      gives us the opportunity to acquire that which is beyond value (the
      grace of God) by spending that which is worthless (worldly possessions).
      “Our lowly, earthly bodily needs, namely, food and drink, clothing, the
      gold and silver each one possesses: all such things are earth and dust,
      and nothing is less valuable than that. Yet these worthless things can
      be the means by which, if, in accordance with the Lord’s promise and
      exhortation someone offers what he has in excess to those possessed of
      virtues, (because they are completely destitute of physical necessities)
      he can make up for his deficiency in virtues and escape punishment for
      being without them through this act of giving. To demonstrate this
      point, the great Paul, writing to the Corinthians, calls such sharing
      ‘fellowship with the saints’ and goes on to say ‘that your abundance may
      be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply
      for your want.’(2 Cor. 8:4&14)”

      Not only wealth, but poverty too is given to us by God and must be used
      in the proper manner. When we find ourselves in need or want; when we
      suffer, are ill or encounter some other misfortune, it is necessary to
      bear this poverty with patience and without complaint, remembering that
      suffering in this world brings us wealth and riches in the kingdom of
      God. If, however, we loudly complain and call attention to ourselves and
      demand this or that “right” from others or seek pity and sympathy from
      society, then we have not used well the poverty that God has given and
      we have already received our reward (that is the attention and sympathy
      of the world) and so will therefore receive no spiritual benefit. But if
      we bear our burden with humility and patience, trusting in God to
      provide all that we need, then He will provide us not only with our
      worldly needs, but also with the riches of grace of the Kingdom of heaven.

      We are all by nature “acquisitive” however that acquisitiveness is often
      misused and misplaced for rather than desiring to acquire the grace of
      God and the blessings of the Kingdom of Heaven which are for our
      salvation, we hunger after the things of the world that are worthless
      and which will pass way. As we approach this season of giving and
      receiving, let us set our hearts and desires not on the things of this
      world which are earth and dust and less than worthless and seek after
      the virtues and grace of God which is priceless beyond value through
      which we will work out our salvation and enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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