‘Take care to guard against all greed’

By Vinal Van Benthem | For The Compass | July 28, 2016

Sometimes (not nearly often enough) when I sit down to write my column, the connection between the Scriptures and the world of work jumps right off the page. This week was one of those times.

“My father is dying.” I had called a friend to check in and when I asked her how things were going in her life those were her first words. I knew that her father had been struggling with early Alzheimer’s and had been hospitalized briefly when it became obvious that he could no longer live alone. Since that time he had been in assisted living and things seemed to be looking up until he fell and broke his hip. Now he was back in the hospital with pneumonia and things weren’t looking good.

I asked how her family was taking it, knowing that she and her siblings had been having problems since the onset of her father’s illness. Her response didn’t really surprise me. Since her father had been living near her and she had been his primary caregiver, he chose to give her power of attorney. Now family members who had managed to remain uninvolved in her dad’s care were coming forward to claim their share of what he might leave behind. “Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.’”

Bookstore shelves are filled with titles related to simple living as we become more conscious of the fact that natural resources are limited. Finally, we seem to be developing a respect for the earth. Unfortunately, however, this respect doesn’t always carry over to the way we treat one another, especially when it comes time to distribute the inheritance left behind by a family member. Ask any funeral director and you’ll hear the stories; eavesdrop at any family reunion and you’ll probably hear more.

“Take care to guard against all greed …” “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” When a loved one draws close to death we may each have to answer the same question.

Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister, retreat leader, spiritual director and published writer and poet.

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