Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"to whom much has been given..."

OK, this might be a little heavy to start the new year, but so be it. Below is an article I've just finished writing for the newsletter at the church. I say that to provide some context for the piece, though I think the moral obligation for the responsible use of wealth need not be confined to discussions within religious circles. Anyway, I hope you'll take the time to read it and let me know if you have any thoughts in response:

I'm really no good at New Year's resolutions. Inevitably, I begin the year with a vow to make some definitive changes in my habits: eating better, exercising more, praying with more intention and regularity. And inevitably, I'm right back to where I started by February. So, I didn't make any concrete resolutions this January, but I did have a meaningful conversation in the first hours of the year that has continued to nag at me and cause me to take spiritual inventory of my own place in
God's world.

I spent the New Year's holiday in Dallas visiting with four of my college friends and their spouses. We try to make it a point to get together each year around this time to catch up with one another. In the wee hours of January 1, after the midnight celebrations had died down and most of the group had gone to sleep, I found myself sitting at the kitchen table deep in conversation with two of my friends. Both of these men are incredibly successful by society's standards. They are well-educated and well-spoken, have excelled through the ranks of their respective businesses, and have achieved financial status that few our age enjoy. And, to be frank, most of our conversational topics over the course of the weekend reflected the comfort of this lifestyle: business dealings, finances, new houses, investments, etc. But in this late-night conversation that shifted first to politics and then to issues of faith and social justice, all of the pretense of those prior conversations fell away. One of my friends confessed that he lies awake many nights wondering if he does enough with all the blessings he has received. We talked about the difficulty of knowing where to draw the line between providing for the needs of ourselves and our families and the slippery temptation to indulge extravagantly in our wants. We debated what it is, exactly, that we are called to do in the passage from Luke's Gospel that reads, “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Luke 12:48).

It is a conversation that has stuck with me over the past few weeks, raising as many questions as it answers. There's no way around it: much has been given to each of us. For the most part, we are blessed with good homes, good families, good educations, good jobs...and it is clear that God is calling us to use these blessings responsively and responsibly. We just have to figure out how best to do that.

So I have only one resolution this year. It comes in the form of a question, and I'm certain it will require continuous reassessment and attention in the months ahead: am I giving of myself all that God is asking me to give, and if not, where is there room for me to improve? I realize that it is a very basic question, one that should be obvious and ever-present for us as Christians. But the truth -- at least, for me -- is that often my day-to-day activity is not rooted in answering that question. I lose sight of it in the busyness around me and the relative comfort that I enjoy. Regardless of the form in which the answer comes, I am reminded of our stewardship prayer that begins, "Disturb us, O Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves," as I pray that each of us will be given the grace and wisdom to seek (and find) the ways in which God is calling us to be his heart and hands in the world around us in 2008.


annabelle said...

Is it strange that last night I dreamt that I walked into a store and you were working behind the counter and had a religious message to deliver? And then I woke up and got to bouncing around in blog-land and find your new post?

The dream was weird. But I like your newsletter excerpt.

lauren said...

it's been over a month since your last post. gimme more! might have to knock you off the "links" list on my blog otherwise. oooh, it's not an empty threat. you wouldn't be the first! but mostly, i'd just rather you write, pretty please.

or an email will do.