Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I remember when we used to sing

I’ve been thinking about another proverb today: “a fool and his money are soon parted.” Money is a hard thing. Maybe the hardest thing. I say that every single day, about something new. Whatev. There are lots of hard things, but even Jesus said that money is the hardest thing: “The love of money is the root of all evil.” “It is harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” “Sell all you have and give it to the poor.”

So, money. How do we get it? That’s the central problem. Money is freedom. But money isn’t freedom if you don’t allow yourself to spend it. Money is also power. And time is money. So money=freedom, time, and power. Great.

Certain branches of the Christian church espouse something called a prosperity gospel, which claims that it’s just lack of belief that keeps us poor. If we believe enough, just believe, God will bless us, and the proof of that blessing will be in the cars, houses, and jewels he showers us with. You may be familiar with this school of thought from late-night televangelists.

I, of course, am skeptical. I’m with Janis--it’d be great to get a Mercedes Benz. My friends all have Porsches, after all. I must make amends. But do I think that God is a great big piggy bank up in the sky? Of course not. For one thing, there just isn’t evidence. The people I know who have the greatest faith are not the ones who sport the bling.

Then again, Christ did say: “Ask, and it shall be given to you.” That’s one of those crazy verses where I always ask myself: did he really mean that? Could he have really meant that? And: “if we seek first the kingdom of heaven, all of these things will be added to us as well.” What does that mean?

What I try to believe, when I can find faith enough, is that if I really seek the path laid out for me, the path that leads to the kingdom of heaven, if I really seek the will of God, then my needs will be met. If I had to claim a life verse, it’d be that one about the lilies of the field. They neither toil nor spin, but God takes care of them. My goal is to live like the lilies, and trust that God will take care of the money.

The key in that belief is understanding that I can’t put any boundaries on the gifts that God gives me. I can trust that I won’t die of exposure, but I can’t trust that I’ll have indoor plumbing. I can trust that I won’t die of starvation, but not that I’ll dine on beluga caviar. That’s where people get in trouble with the prosperity gospel. God will meet my needs, but never in the way I expect.

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