On August 13, 2023, the Apostolic Nuncio, His Excellency Archbishop Dr Augustine Kasujja, celebrated his golden jubilee in the sacred priesthood and silver jubilee in the pontifical ministry at Mitala Maria, Mawokota. It was impeccable and spiritually impactful. Hearty congratulations, the Papal envoy!
On this remarkable celebration, the Archbishop of Kampala, His Grace Paul Ssemogerere made an altruistic, affectionate and introspective statement: “…the poor will not merit Heaven.”
This statement has generated mixed opinions. Beneath the archbishop’s speech was the exhortation for people to commit to hard work, creativity and innovation to generate provision, abundancy and wealth in order to perfect a life of integral human development by utilizing the gifts and talents God has endowed us with. This is a purpose and mission-driven life.
Nobody will doubt that practically everybody in antiquity preferred being wealthy, as does practically everybody today. Wealth is an absolute requisite for a fulfilled human life. Material wealth and social status live together. Whatever the situation and environment we find ourselves in economically, questions and concerns about God’s intent and role in provision and wealth weigh heavily on humanity.
The concern of the archbishop for economic development and wealth creation is matched by the priority it is given in the scriptures. They occupy a large share of both the old and new Testaments and are prominent in the Holy Gospels. The Genesis accounts (1 and 2) make it clear that God planned for humanity to enjoy the beauty, abundancy and fruitfulness of creation.
God’s intent is that people would not merely subsist, but have good things in abundancy, “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28).
Blessed are the poor in spirit (Mt 5:3) is one of the beatitudes of Jesus for a holy living to humanity. However, it ought not to be substituted/altered with the spirit of poverty to suit one’s indigent conviction and exoneration to generate legitimate wealth.
The poverty of the spirit is an emptying of the self that God may fill man with His life and love. In a world that was entirely level and fair, good choices would lead to provision and wealth, and poor choices to poverty.
Sloth, wasteful indulgence/navel gaze, poor self-discipline and addictive behaviour would lead to poverty. In sharp contrast, diligent work, careful consumption, health, selfdiscipline and freedom from addictions would result into wealth.
Scriptures are less concerned with identifying the particular causes of poverty. In order to empower human capacitation in context and perspective, there is fervent need thus to break the status quo in the work processes, systems and procedures to challenge the poor living human conditions.
In the holy scriptures, work matters to God regardless of vocation or profession. Work is part of God’s big picture. God created all things and has revealed that, in His sovereignty, He is propagating created order through the process of creation. Human work as a gift matters to God now and eternally.
Quality, character and ethics are foundational for human work. In work, we love God and the neighbour and hence a call for everyone to participate in it with integrity, dignity, honesty, justice, healing, reconciliation, kindness, humility and patience.
This means that Christ’s redemptive work occurs in harmony with the work of creation, production and sustenance that God delegated and designated for humanity; Exodus 20:9, 2Thess 3:10, (“For even when we were with you… If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat’’), Isaiah 65:21-22 (‘’They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat.”
In this statement, there is a direct divine and theological connection of what scriptures exhort on legitimate wealth to final judgement as the archbishop appealed in the parable of talents (Mt 25:14-30). “for to everyone who has, more will be given, … And cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’’
It, therefore, necessarily calls for urgency to fight against ignorance and apply reasonable diligence to eliminate all forms of slothful behaviour in order to harness a life of provision, abundancy and wealth for God’s glory, personal salvation and eternal repose.
The writer is the director of communications and public relations, Kampala Archdiocese