In our neighborhood, there are nice homes where the grass is more than ankle high, clearly vacated, with signs posted on the front window. Flower beds are choked with weeds. In our neighborhood, some homes have been on the market too long; renters move in with late model cars and several kids. In our neighborhood, home values have plummeted to less than the mortgage amount. In our neighborhood, is the best school district around, and Chase Corporate Headquarters is pretty close by. In our neighborhood, folks get credit card statements with exorbitant interest rates, rates increased dramatically for no apparent reason, or foreclosure notices.
In our neighborhood, you see moms going shopping with coupons, checking things out carefully at ALDIs, empty budget hotdog packages in their recycling bins, and traffic actually down at Walmart on a peak busy Saturday shopping time. In our neighborhood, some people read The Columbus Dispatch with articles about Jamie Dimon, head of Chase Bank and its billion dollar losses, and shake their heads. Bankers, lobbyists, Wall Street abuses. Is this about greed? Greed and power. Hubris and risk taking. Greed is parasitic, like cancer, so too, hubris or pride. So too, lust for power.
In his powerful little book, Preaching Justice: The Ethical Vocation of Word and Sacrament Ministry, Joseph A. Sittler Theologian, former Academic Dean, and Professor Emeritus at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Dr. James Childs writes, . . . ‘the Bible is replete with concerns about the way that we handle our material wealth. The Bible affirms the goodness of all God’s creation and the riches of material plenty, which human beings enjoy as a gift from the creator. It sees these vast treasures of creation and our use of them in the framework of an overall economy of harmonious community with God, each other, and the whole earth. This is why greed is condemned (1 Cor. 5:11; 6:9-10; Eph. 5:3-5; Col. 3:5-6). It undermines that wholistic economy in the interest of selfish aggrandizement. By placing personal material gain ahead of God and God’s plan for the good of all, it becomes idolatrous.’ (page 59) Childs cites a reference that the ‘United States still has the most unequal distribution of wealth of all advanced industrialized nations.’
Childs revisits Bible stories such as The Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21) which is not about wealth from hard work and good fortune but unwillingness to share; the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). The very act of gathering around a communion table to share in the symbolic gift of life for ALL calls us to justice in the world and an ethos of sharing, he explains. It is not merely Christian to believe that ‘all things belong to God, and that life itself is a gift’ (p 69). Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Baha’i are also called to exhibit stewardship, charity and compassion, as we all share in believing in ‘the Golden Rule’- to do unto others as you'd have them do to you (or the negation of that).
Childs ends his chapter with a folk story of the greedy rat of Tanzania. An aggravated farmer set a trap with fragrant chicken meat. The cleverest rat of all lured one of his comrades at a time to spring the trap, so he first, and then they could enjoy the meat. One-by-one the rats died until only he was left. So greedy, he couldn’t live without the chicken meat, he backed into the trap, sacrificing a little bit of tail until finally no tail was left. Finally, he couldn’t resist, and the trap did him in. Kind of like drugs or gambling.
The moral is that ‘insatiable greed destroys those around you and, bit by bit, destroys you as well.’ (pp72-73) We are doing this with the arms race, the race for oil and natural gas at all costs- including, and especially, the environment. In economics 101 most of us heard of ‘guns versus butter’; how a political-economic system chooses to spend its resources. The more it spends on guns, the less is available for butter (or even rice or bread-witness North Korea). Perhaps the fastest way to move the hands of the Doomsday clock closer to midnight is to grease the mechanism with greed. Greed, lust for power and hubris. Just sayin' . . .
June 4th-August 6th Spirituality Network has a workshop 'Creativity as a Spiritual Practice'. Read more about it at www.spiritualitynetwork.org/events.html
A Feast of Corpus Christi Celebration is being held 10:30-1pm at Corpus Christi Church on June 10th. See http://feastofcc-auto.eventbrite.com for further information.
Meditations for this Post:
‘Oh, the one who has fallen in love with gold
Is yelling and screaming,
As if death won’t come
And knock at his door.
Think about the day
You are breathing your last breath
And your wife’s mind
Is on another husband.
Before the arrow of death pierces your shield,
Make your aim the commandments.
The purpose of humanity is observation and understanding.
Oh, God’s compassion is raining
Observations and understanding.’
-Rumi p 207 Essential Sufism
’21. True Islam Is Kindness
1. Golden Rule
No one is a true believer unless he desireth for his brother that which he desireth for himself.
Do you love your Creator? Love your fellow-beings first.
3. The Mark of Faith
Kindness is a mark of faith: and whoever hath not kindness hath not faith.
4. Good to God’s Creatures
All God’s creatures are His family; and he is the most beloved of God who doeth most good to God’s creatures.
5. Actions most Excellent
What actions are the most excellent? To gladden the heart of a human being, to feed the hungry, to help the afflicted, to lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful, and to remove the wrongs of the injured.’ … (Hadith p315 Islam; The World’s Wisdom by Philip Novak)