Today's reading from the 1st Letter to Timothy challenges us to look at our consumerist way of life.
For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it. If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that. Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction. 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 6:7-10)
Much has been made of the Holy Father's choices regarding his simple way of life. He has chosen not to live in the papal palace and to occupy a simple apartment in the Vatican guesthouse. Those who have been in the apartment have commented on its Spartan décor. He chose to use a rented Fiat when he was in Rio de Janiero, and he made a point of visiting the poorest (and most dangerous) neighborhood in that city. His choice of cars in Rome is a used vehicle that was given to him by a parish priest. His robes are simple, lacking the embroidered papal coat of arms on his belt or sash. His liturgical vesture is equally simple. He has called upon the leaders of the world to pay attention to the needs of the poor, and he has criticized the media for failing to report on the millions of starving people in our world. Both through his words and through his way of life, he is demonstrating the kind of simple life style called for in the Scriptures.
One of the criteria that those of us who are religious with a vow of poverty are taught from the day we were invested with our habits is the distinction between "need" and "want." The community will supply our needs. However, we are asked to consider what we really need and whether we might not simply be giving in to our wants. The current movement to embrace a simpler life style is evidence that there is a part of our population which has recognized that our pursuit of things and of wealth has led us off the straight and narrow path.
No one is expected to drive themselves into destitution. However, we must remember that when one person has too much, hundreds of people have not enough.