Monday, January 7, 2008

On Necessities and Superfluities

This is an excerpt from Thomas Dubay's, Happy Are You Poor. The bolding and formatting is my emphasis.

“It must be noticed that the values of the kingdom are just about 180 degrees removed from the values of the world… It is assumed that every one knows them and that most people live by them. What are these premises:
  • prestige is a primary value…
  • bodily comfort and pleasure are indispensable…
  • this life is all we have, and so let’s enjoy it to the full…
  • impressing people with one’s possessions and accomplishments and attractiveness is important…
  • sexual excitement and satisfaction are crucial…
  • success is ‘coming out on top’ in relation to others…
  • money is a must, for without it one can have very little of anything else worth having in life.

“If we turn to the pages of the New Testament we find a picture as opposite as it could be:
  • humility, being last, unknown, hidden in Christ, is a condition for getting into the kingdom…
  • prestige is worthless and even an obstacle to greatness…
  • the hard road and the narrow gate, carrying the cross every day is immensely important…
  • dying to our selfishness and crucifying our illusory desires are indispensable…
  • impressing people is of no importance at all, whereas being pleasing to the divine eyes is everything…
  • virginity is a favored and privileged state, and chaste fidelity in marriage mirrors the very union of Christ and his Church…
  • one may not try to best others; rather he is to serve them as though he were a slave…
  • it most difficult, indeed it is humanly impossible, for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of heaven.” pp. 57-58


What follows is an examen straight from Fr. Dubay’s book Happy Are You Poor. He says that we all have different needs so we “cannot know whether a need is real or illusory” for certain people, but these set of questions are at least a good start. Some may think this is a bit too rigorous… but examens should be rigorous–or perhaps blunt and sincere.
  • By what standards do I determine what is necessary?
  • Do I collect unneeded things? Do I hoard possessions?
  • May I, on Gospel principles, buy clothes at the dictates of fashion designers in Paris and New York? Am I slave to fashion? Do I live in other peoples’ minds? Why really do I have all the clothes I have: shirts, blouses, suits, dresses, shoes, gloves?
  • Am I an inveterate nibbler? Do I eat because I am bored? Do the weight charts convict me of superfluity in eating and drinking? Do I take second helpings simply for the pleasure they afford?
  • Do I keep unneeded books and papers and periodicals and notes?
  • Do I retain two or three identical items (clocks, watches, scarves) of which I really need only one?
  • Do I spend money on trinkets and unnecessary conveniences?
  • In the winter, do we keep our thermostat, at a setting higher than health experts advise: 68 degrees?
  • When I think of my needs, do I also think of the far more drastic needs of the teeming millions in the third world?
  • Do I need the traveling I do more than the poor need food and clothing and medical care?
  • Am I right in contributing to the billions of dollars spent each year on cosmetics? How much of this can be called necessary?
  • Is smoking necessary for me?
  • Is drinking necessary for me?
  • Do I need to examine exactly what I mean by saying to myself, “I need this”?
  • Can I honestly say that all I use or possess is used or possessed for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31)? Would he be given more glory by some other use?
  • Do I in the pauline sense “mind the things above, not those on earth” (Col 3:1-2)?
H/T Katerina and Becky

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