Its surprising how much you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit
July 15, 2016
"Beyond the Dreams of Avarice" is a descriptive phrase from Samuel Johnson that describes a deep-seated craving and a desperate longing inside each of us that is a hazard to discipleship and our spiritual life development. This is not meant to be a moralistic homily. It is meant to be a call and a consideration about what it means to be a Christian in our culture.
I find it interesting and disturbing that I seldom focus on what I have but on what I lack. It is a mindset of relative deprivation. And if it goes unchecked it leads to what Jesus called coveting. Our culture is built on coveting. This is true for Donald Trump the capitalist and is also true for Bernie Sanders the socialist. Both want more of something. And yet it is often true that to be better off is not the same as being better. Many people have more and have become less. As Oscar Wilde opines, "We know the price of everything and the value of nothing."
Jesus warned us on two occasions regarding coveting. "Beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses." (Luke 12:15)
He also declared to His disciples that: If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? (Lk. 9:23-25) What does it profit indeed! These are strong words but true words for those who wish to be disciples of Jesus.
The Apostle Paul says that unchecked greed and the unbridled pursuit of stuff is actually idolatry. "Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry." (Col. 3:5)
And there it is: Coveting is a form of idolatry. It is condemned in both the Old Testament (Exodus 20:17) and the New Testament (Col. 3:5). Coveting is wanting what someone else has that you often do not really need. The truth is as Eric Hoffer observed, "You can never have enough of what you do not really need."
Perhaps we have confused sociological "conspicuous consumption" with spiritual contentment. As such, Russell Kirk has presciently warned us: "We shall have to think less and less about doubling or tripling the standard of living and more and more about what makes life worth living."
Serving Him with you Until He comes for us,
Maybe I don't exactly understand what the mention of Trump and Sanders has to do with the rest of the article. It seems to me that analogy could be applied to everyone who runs for higher office, anyone who eats too much, shops too much, every politician, every business owner. I don't disagree that we are prone to getting a little piggy. This seems to tell me if I aspire to anything outside of bare necessities, I'm a sinner just for that. So those who want to build things and give people jobs for their families are coveting? Covet means yearn to possess but Trump (don't know about Sanders) gives a great deal to charity, helps people w/o crowing about it and creates a lot of jobs. What am I missing?
As I am not the author of the article, I can only share my interpretation. The reference to Trump and Sanders was merely to serve as an illustration of wanting more. Fred Chay's essays are generally designed to have the reader "self reflect" on our motives for everything we chose to do or not do in life.
Fred? I thought you were Jim??
Fred is a seminary professor and department head at Grace Theological Seminary in Houston, TX. He writes a column titled "Friday's with Fred" which I have read for a decade. He gave me permission to publish them on the AFA blog. Feedback has been very positive and he generally gets about 100 people reading his weekly article. He hopes they get us to self examine more often.