Saturday, November 04, 2006

The dangers of wealth - a second posting

It’s not that no one with wealth will enter the realm of God. But there is a warning to those with money in this passage (and in many other passages). That warning is don’t let dollars distract you from what is really important. One’s life doesn’t consist in the abundance of possessions. (12:15) One’s life is (or should be) about worshipping God.

Yet we often forget this. We often forget about the one we should worship and begin worshipping the money, the power, and the prestige. We ignore the one who made is in favor of the idea that we are self-made. Or worse, we use the ‘but I’m so perfect that I deserve it’ mentality to excuse any of our excesses and trampling on other people.

It’s not just those with money who do this. We can find greed and excess wherever humans are. It is where anyone decides that they are better than the other or that the rules don’t apply to ‘me’. But the warnings in the gospels are directed more to the wealthy, the powerful and the prominent than to those who are poor. The poor may equally succumb to some of the temptations of wealth but just don’t have that as the temptation put before them each day and hour.

In many ways this week I’m looking at someone who fell due to the excesses of greed and power. Haggard of Colorado has been powerful. He led a large congregation, participated in regular phone calls with the president, led the National Association of Evangelicals, and more. Yet someone who only knew him as Art realized that he was someone else and came forth.

Now the accuser is not powerful or rich or prominent. In fact he’s certainly a prostitute, probably uses and/or sells drugs, and has very little reputation. But he saw hypocrisy. He saw someone seeking to prevent a relationship of the sort in which that one man was engaging and called it for what it was. If you’re having gay sex, paying for gay sex, buying drugs, then pronouncing against those things is hypocritical. And Haggard then became as one whose greed filled his life – he seems to have wanted the prominence that came with preaching against something that some people feel are evil while doing the very things that he preached against.

This is what Jesus warns against. The Pharisees used rules to determine who was and was not clean, but they left out the part where all could follow those rules. A shepherd, for example, was almost always unclean, as they couldn’t know where each sheep in their flock had been. But the one who owned the flock wasn’t unclean as they could stay away from the responsibility. This is what we do when we preach against a sin that we hide in ourselves or for which we have no prospect of doing.

If you blame gays for being promiscuous then provide them the remedy of marriage or civil unions with all the benefits that do encourage married people to be less promiscuous, but don’t blame them for having sex outside of marriage when you don’t allow them to marry.

And don’t blame all gays for what you yourself are doing. There are homosexuals who have had life-long partnerships where both are faithful and chaste. There are homosexuals who have never used illegal drugs. There are homosexuals who’ve used both drugs and sex as escapes from their lives. Just as all heterosexuals shouldn’t be blamed for the wildness of Mardi Gras parties or the key swapping parties of some, neither should homosexuals be placed all in the same basket.

Let people live the consequences of their actions rather than making more consequences than those actions deserve. Jesus clearly indicates that while we should reach out and care for people we should be leery of judging them. And in many ways I pity Haggard more than I judge him or gloat over his downfall. Though I do admit to the glee and judgmental attitude as well as pity.

Unfortunately Haggard is only one example. And he may not be the most egregious sinner. Each of us needs to look at ourselves. Are we blaming someone for illegal drugs while secretly abusing something that is legal? Are we condemning someone for promiscuity when we’ve not had the urge nor the opportunity? Are we judging someone for being abusing their family while ignoring the needs of our own family? Are we praying thank God I’m an honest, God-fearing person better than that sinner in the corner? Answer the above questions honestly and then we can begin to realize that while we may call people to account for their actions, while we may work to help them see the light we need to be asking them to call us to account for our actions and ask them to help us see the light. And the ‘them’ we should ask for help is probably the one we hate or despise or judge harshly.

Luke 12:13-31

[13] Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ [14] But he said to him, Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you? [15] And he said to them, Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. [16] Then he told them a parable: The land of a rich man produced abundantly. [17] And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ [18] Then he said, I will do this:

I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. [19] And I will say to my soul, =91Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry. [20] But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be? ‘

[21] So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.

[22] He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. [23] For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. [24] Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! [25] And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? [26] If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? [27] Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. [28] But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you -- you of little faith! [29] And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. [30] For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. [31] Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”

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