Sunday, September 10, 2006

Of Hearts and Treasures

But, in the present state of mankind, it [money] is an excellent gift of God, answering the noblest ends. In the hands of his children, it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked: It gives to the traveller and the stranger where to lay his head. By it we may supply the place of an husband to the widow, and of a father to the fatherless. We maybe a defence for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain; it may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame; yea, a lifter up from the gates of death! John Wesley "The Use of Money"

Today I preached about a biased God, and this is a passage from Wesley's sermon on the role of money in the lives of Christians.

A God whose preference for the poor is undisputed. 3000 verses deal with the poor. Even for the literalists among us, that's a number that can't be ignored.

Stack those up against the verses demanding obligations of following restrictive doctrines, or what Jesus says about being gay (not a damn thing). Stack what ever it is you use to put "moral" issues on the forefront of the agenda (especially in an election year), and bring them to the table.

Please, stack all those up and bring them to me and then lay them alongside God's concern for the widowed and orphaned.

Please. I dare you.

And what you'll find is a real moral issue -

A God, who, through the prophets, reminds us again and again that the measure of how faithful the people of God are can be tested against how it treats the least among us.

A God, who through Jesus, made it clear that the least and the last hold the place of honor in the Realm of God.

The temptation for any of us is to think that if God is biased toward the poor, and I'm not poor (and most of us in this country are remarkably rich by world standards), does that mean that somehow God does not love me in the same way?

Today I commented that I believe it to be true that God accepts us just as we are. But once accepted, God expects us to take upon ourselves the things that matters most to the Divine.

The reading from James for this day talks about faith being dead without works. It also talks about the distinctions we make on our sisters and brothers relative to their perceived wealth.

Too often we water all this down to "poor in spirit." I think that's a cop out. Is there poverty of spirit? Sure.

But what Scriptures indicate the issue is focuses upon the abuses of power we exert over the other with the common resources of creation. That power base is directly related to our accumulation of those resources. We make commodities to be traded and hoarded of those resources we all need in order to live well, and our financial capacity to by in and "own" trumps our Divine obligation to share what is, by all accounts, not really ours in the first place.

Maybe that's why we spend far too much time on a false morality because if left to follow the one that God has laid out for us, it may exact more of what we think is "ours" than we'd like to admit.

So, if God is biased, should not that bias become our own?

No comments: