A blog of a friend that I recently found and have been reading regularly posted this response from seven evangelical church leaders on the question of materialism. Several of the responses stuck out to me as sentiments calling me back to myself – if that makes sense. Calling me to convictions that I know are biblical, true, just and rooted in how the kingdom is ordered – convictions that I haven’t thought about enough lately.
Just today, I was lamenting my current lack of employment and feelings of financial stress that accompany that as I walk through a new season of juggling parenthood, PhD studies, project work, pastoral passions, a calling to communities – a whole bunch of stuff that doesn’t always make money or make sense, in other words. And while some of my feelings and anxiety surrounding not knowing what my employment and financial future will look like are entirely valid, reading the below blog replies stopped me in my tracks as this thought hit me: I am fundamentally giving in to selfish and controlling feelings in this area of life when I get so worried about what the future will hold and so tied to worrying about financial specifics. I don’t really yet know what it means to ‘give my finances to God’ as the evangelical saying goes, but I am pretty sure my worrying and distrust that God is doing something bigger and better than I can see isn’t the answer. How do I forget this basic truth?
The following quotes reminded me that, 1) I need to continue to be around people (neighbors) who are truly struggling financially to keep my own well-fed financial reality in perspective, and I need to also be around financially gifted people whose lifestyles are generous and faithful, so that I don’t get too persuaded by the ‘norm’ of middle-upper class America that right now seems somewhat alluring to me; and 2) Mammon sneaks up on me, in the middle of studying thelogy and pastoring and writing convictions on ethics, I need to be aware of my everyday and surpremely personal practices and whether or not they are helping me let go of financial control and trust God – or on the other hand, engendering want and lust and bad habits that keep me to tied to money. It’s tricky – this whole area, and I just needed this reminder today. I think that I need to revisit the question of what is enough – surely I already have more than enough, just not more than I currently desire. Tricky.
Enjoy these solid quotes:
Shane Claiborne’s response: “What is enough is defined by our relationship to our neighbor—if our neighbor has four cars, then we think we are living simply if we have two cars. If our neighbor doesn’t have water, then two cars is probably too many. We have this command to love our neighbor as ourselves, but I think the great tragedy of our culture is that we are pushed away from suffering, away from poverty to the point that it’s enough if we give a tax-exempt donation or volunteer for a week out of the year. And yet if we’re really in relationship with people who are suffering, that messes with us.”
Theologian and scholar N.T. Wright writes: “Most of us in the Western world need to have our noses rubbed in that [question] more than we regularly do, and not use the kind of convenient get-out clause—’Well, that’s something Jesus says to some people but not everybody.’ When people say that, it tends to mean “but please, not me.” That’s dangerous. One of the first steps we have to take is to recognize that the vast majority of the Christian world for the last 2,000 years—and still today—lives in much more poverty and a much simpler lifestyle than we in the modern West can easily imagine. …. Money becomes a god very, very easily. So giving it away cheerfully and wisely is a step toward really saying money is not the ruling force in our lives. Money is not the thing that makes you a genuine human being. Saying that is so counterintuitive in Western culture.”