Friday, February 06, 2009

A Kingdom Response to the Current Crisis

As I pen these words, U.S. senators are attempting to hammer out a bi-partisan, stimulus bill whose prayerful purpose is to cure, or at least mitigate, our economic woes. Most economic and political pundits believe that a package will pass, but its actual content is still uncertain. Talking heads on either end of the political spectrum have labeled the legislation "porkulous" or "too lean" respectively.

With whichever side of the political aisle we identify, we all acknowledge that we currently face a major economic crisis. And, with the 24-7 news coverage, we constantly are bombarded with doomsday messages. It's no wonder that the national level of anxiety has increased exponentially. With this uncertainty of the future, fear tightens its unrelenting grip on us all. Christians are not exempt from this uncertainty.

Against this gloomy fiscal backdrop, the words of Jesus stand out in bold relief:

"Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possesions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heavan that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Luke 12:29-34).

Without drilling critically into this profoundly relevant passage, I've been pondering its personal implications for my life. While no singular experience can capture the full essence of any particular passage, perhaps these observations resonate with you as well.

First, the call of this passage juxtaposed to the current economic calamity has exposed the extent of my personal anxiety. Like millions of folks, I have family responsibilities, which carry a price tag. Mortgage. Utilities. Clothes. Food. Gas, etc. These are legitimate concerns while we exist between the times of Christ's first and second advents. In my position as a minister, I realize that my personal finances will be affected by the finances of the larger culture. In fact, many churches and non-profit organizations already are experiencing the negative, fiscal impact of this economic crisis. People are trimming their budgets along with their giving to religious and other charitable organizations. It's hard not to worry about this.

Second, and as an extention of the first observation, I've realized how easy it is to become infected by this fallen world's concerns. Jesus equates anxiety over even the necessitites of life as "pagan" goals and objectives. Ouch. In this connnection, perhaps the people of God need to confront the sad reality that, behaviorally and attitudinally, there is little to no difference between believers and unbelievers.

Third, my wife, Carol, and I have come to a conclusion regarding our particular response to this crisis: God has moved us to resist the natural "hording" tendency during this time and to increase our generosity. In this text, Jesus' cure for economic worry is to "sell your possessions and give to the poor." This seems to be counter-intuitive, and certainly counter-cultural. But, isn't that the true nature of the kingdom of heaven? I don't think that Jesus is teaching a type of Christian communism, nor is he tacitly condemning the rich. In fact, the bible recognizes different socio-economic statuses, even among the Christian community. There is nothing inherently evil with being rich, nor is there anything inherently righteous in being poor. The good news of this text is that kingdom people live according to an eschatological ethic. The abundance of the eternal kingdom--the reign of God--has "already" broken into our current world but has "not yet" been fully consummated. In the meantime, kingdom people are to reflect something of the coming age. Our attitude toward possessions is a poignant, practical way in which we can demonstrate an eschatological ethic--we trust in God, not in any fallen economic structure of this world.

The good news of this text is that God has seen fit to give us the kingdom--a gift far surpassing anything we can accumulate in this world. I'm just trying to figure out how to express that reality in my own life. Perhaps if God's people responded to the current economic crisis in radical faith, and increased generosity, maybe this would go a long way in demonstrating at long last the difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world.

1 comment:

The Texas Trio said...

I do find it funny that some of my most worry-free times were when I had little to no "responsibilities." Not that I was not responsible but I did not have “things” or “stuff” that I had to worry about. No car payment, no house (I had three roommates in a rental), no loans, no “big-boy toys”. It seems that the more we (I) buy to make our (my) lives comfortable the less comfortable it really is.