Letter to a young man on combating six lies

Larry Smith

As a young man, you are embarking on a great adventure, to find your place in the world. Unfortunately, the world will tell you many things along the way, so that it’s difficult to separate the truth from the lies.

Lie #1: Look out for Number One. In pursuing your own needs, you always find yourself longing for more. But when you stop and help someone else — be it a family member or a complete stranger — you will feel true accomplishment because you are fulfilling the design that God placed on your heart. To help people in need — that is the mark of a true man.

Lie #2: Your worth is based on money. Money can be a great blessing or a great burden. Scripture is replete with warnings. “For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:10). Notice the warning is specific to the “love of money.” Money without a foundation of faith and family — and loving God first — is shallow and unfulfilling. Money can’t buy you happiness. The greedy pursuit of it can completely ruin your life.

Lie #3: Whoever dies with the most toys, wins. Use the toys you have to experience the joy of life that God intended you to experience. But if you focus on the toys, and not the people that you’re experiencing it with, you’ll lose sight of your purpose in life. What should be a gift from God can become a set of chains. Because when it comes to toys, you can never have new enough, shiny enough or fast enough. Materialism is a construct of the devil, tempting us to always seek more, more, more of meaningless things. Ask yourself: Do you want to have it all? Or do you want to give it all?

Lie #4: Sow your wild oats. Society says it’s OK to be promiscuous. That’s the legacy of the Sexual Revolution, which has been a wrecking ball through generations, causing much misery, fear, doubt and even death in the form of abortion. You were made for more. When you have sex outside of marriage, you’re committing a mortal sin. Instead, be a virtuous warrior. Listen to the words of St. Dominic: “A man who governs his passions is master of the world.”

Lie #5: Delay marriage as long as possible. Our culture tells us that independence, and the ability to do what you want, is the most important thing. Don’t believe it. When a man says, “I do” to his bride, he takes responsibility for his wife and for the creation of a family. Or, you may be called to be a priest or religious. How will you discern God’s plan for your life?

Lie #6: Prayer is boring because nothing happens. The world throws every conceivable kind of noise at you to prevent you from getting closer to God, from taking time to be with Jesus Christ in prayer and to sit quietly alone in His presence — in adoration. It’s when you finally do that that you begin to truly understand the meaning of life and your purpose in it.

P.S. To women: are you helping men to be men? Husbands, sons, brothers, fathers, uncles and male co-workers all need your prayers and intentions to live out their God-given missions.

Larry Smith is the president and CEO of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Denver. Visit online
at ccdenver.org or call 303-742-0828 to learn more, volunteer or make a donation.

COMING UP: Should the Church talk about money? If we follow Christ’s teaching, yes.

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In Luke Chapter 3, three different groups asked John the Baptist what they should do to bear the fruit of repentance. John gives three answers: 1) Everyone should share clothes and food with the poor; 2) Tax collectors shouldn’t pocket extra money; and 3) Soldiers should be content with their wages and not extort money. Each answer John gives is related to money and possessions, but no one asked him about that! They only ask how to demonstrate the fruit of spiritual transformation. They don’t grasp John the Baptist’s perspective, that he could not talk about spirituality without talking about how to handle money and possessions.

Jesus puts some harsh words in God’s mouth in the “Parable of the Rich Fool.” In Luke 12:20, we hear: “But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong? Thus will it be for one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”

Alternatively, Jesus provides some great promises on both sides of that parable. In Luke 11:41: “…give alms and behold, everything will be clean for you.” And in Luke 12:33: “…give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven.”

When my wife Cathy and I were experiencing our conversion to the Lord in the early 1990s, we decided we were going to try to live out our Catholic faith to the full: in our attending Mass every Sunday, in our family and in our checkbook.

So, despite four young kids and no way of knowing if we could afford to send them to Catholic school or college, we started tithing. One thing it dramatically did was contribute to our growth in faith and trust in God. We truly believed in God’s promise that He never will be outdone in generosity. And now, 25 years later, we can only rejoice that we still are doing fine despite paying for Catholic schools, colleges and three daughters’ weddings! So what, that we are driving two cars that have 365,000 miles between them!

When we created our will back then, we decided to leave 10% of our assets to the Church. After I became President of The Catholic Foundation in 2012, we became aware of the concept to “treat the Church like one of your children.” We thought that made a lot of sense, so we changed our will to do just that … such that our four children and The Catholic Foundation will each receive 20% of our estate.

Today, we are not sure how our kids will be able to do what we did; with Denver’s crazy housing market, how will they be able to afford Catholic school for their kids, future colleges and, someday, weddings? It looks daunting for them. Shouldn’t we leave them 100% instead of just 80%? For us, it was an easy decision—better to give them a portion with God’s blessing than to think they’d be better off with it all. Besides, they are helping themselves have the best chance possible.

How? By doing their own tithing! I remember years ago, when the business manager at our parish called me to ensure that it was okay that our daughter had made a large contribution to the parish. Cathy and I were unaware she had done so. What had she done? She had tithed her high school graduation gift money. You can imagine how proud we felt.

A “planned gift” through a will or another avenue is the easiest gift to make because it only gets made when we can’t use it anymore – at least, not in this world. Maybe it can be better used by God and his Church. Listen to Revelation 14:13: “I heard a voice from Heaven say, ‘write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, said the Spirit, let them find rest from their labors, for their works accompany them.’ ”

Cathy and I want our works to accompany us, as we are sure you do, too. We have been saved by Jesus for eternal life – let us make sure our faith in that is manifested in our living and in our giving.

Would you prayerfully discern how God is calling you to steward the assets He has entrusted to you? We hope we and you hear these words someday from Jesus (Matthew 25:34): “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

Deacon Steve Stemper is CEO & President of The Catholic Foundation. Please contact him at (303) 468-9885 if you would like a meeting to discuss how your planned giving can be used for God’s Kingdom.