Jesus taught that if one wanted true freedom and happiness, one had to choose between God and earthly wealth.
“You cannot serve two masters- God and mammon.” (Mt. 6.24)
“What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and suffers the loss of his own soul?” (Mt.16. 2-6)
To find freedom of spirit one had to be ready to renounce wealth if it dragged one downwards. Through his teachings on not storing wealth (Mt. 6, 19-21) like the rich fool (Lk. 12, 16-21) or like the Rich man in the parable (Lk. 16, 19-31), he showed that happiness came to the poor and to the poor in spirit (Mt. 5, 3) who put their trust in Providence in carefree surrender like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. This applies to all his disciples. “If any man will follow me” –not special people only they would need to renounce further their all – their father, mother, life, their very self (Lk. 9, 23-24) (Mt. 10, 37).
To renounce wealth was but the first step. Yet it was not always easy, as we see in the story of the Rich young Man, who asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life and said that he had kept all the commandments. The Lord “looking steadily at him, loved him” and said “There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own, give the money to the poor… then come, follow me.” But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth (Mk. 10, 17-22). That is what slavery to great wealth does to us; it leaves us sad with life and unable to respond to his look of love. Though there is nothing wrong in riches as such – Jesus had even rich friends and dined with them; - what he condemned was hoarding and becoming slaves of wealth through a selfish use of money. He applied this principle at both the individual level and the social or structural level. Had he not, at his very first public sermon at the Synagouge (the Jewish Temple) in Nazareth referred Isaiah’s prophecy to himself:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, he has appointed me to preach the Good News to the poor, to heal the broken- hearted, to release the captive, and to free the downtrodden from their oppressors…” (Lk. 4, 17-19)