Step One (and maybe two)
One of the comments to the last post was essentially, “I agree, Jesus talks to us as addicts when he talks about money. But what do we do about it?” Here are few thoughts in that direction, and I’ll probably stay with it for a few posts. (Because of the path our church is on right now, my friend Mike also has some great thoughts on this issue. Feel free to think a few of your own.)
A big reason for making the previous post was to be part of the solution for myself and others: Every addiction is harder, if not impossible, to overcome if you deny that it is an addiction. If we come to terms with the fact that we are in fact addicted to money (and many other things), we have just made our recovery much more likely to succeed. And this is not as simple as it sounds. I’m sure someone will read this or the previous post and inwardly say, “It’s not like Jesus, or any of the biblical writers, actually used the term ‘addiction’.” True enough; they didn’t have that language. But go and read the things they did say. I guarantee you their words will not make your denial any easier. You probably won’t make it past what Jesus said himself, assuming you start with him. God gets us, and he tells us what he knows. You can build your life on it or not.
The reason that calling an addiction by its name is important is that it changes which actions actually make sense for us to take, and which don’t. I don’t even know how many of our current actions as individual followers make no sense in light of our attachment to money and other things of this world. We are steeped in society’s expectations and practices (“people who don’t know God are deeply concerned about these things”–what we will wear, what we will eat, etc.) Images of nice things are the staples of our minds’ intake. Our eyes are full of them, and our body follows. They keep us putting thought, energy and time toward taking care of the things of this life. We’re cultivating weeds. The seed of God’s new creation is being neglected for weeds and thorn bushes.
But what can rival money’s images and expectations? Is there a vision that can spur us toward godliness and contentment, toward truly productive lives and actions? There is. And according to Jesus, the image is that of God getting his way on the earth. He called it the reign, or kingdom, of God. It was Jesus’ favorite topic; it’s arrival was his message, his good news; it’s continued emergence is the center of the prayer he wants to teach us. As Jesus made abundantly clear, God has not abandoned this earth to the dark powers. This is his world, and he’s decided to keep it, and make it the way he wants it. God has already planted the Seed of his rule in this world, and it is growing. Eventually it will be the largest tree in the whole earth (it may already be). Christians often mistakenly think that this world is getting the fate of the devil rather than the fate of Jesus and his followers. It will be tested, and with fire, but that fire will result in a new heavens and a new earth: all that wasn’t planted by the Father will be completely uprooted; all not made with the master carpenter turned to ash. But things made with his gold and precious stones will remain. Healing, removal of demons and their lies, kindness to the poor, and true knowledge of God, these are just a few of the staples of the growing and inevitable reign of Jesus, the King, in the world.
Some may be thinking, “This is great, but what does this have to do with our addiction to money?” Everything. Money has captured us by visions and/or experiences of what it can do and by convincing us that there are no functioning alternatives. It has brought us into a lifestyle which is organized around getting and spending money. It casts a vision ahead of us and our paths are chosen in accordance with that vision. (Jesus’ statements about serving God or money are all about this.) God has cast a rival vision and offered a rival path. Money isn’t just an object, it’s a paradigm, a way of ordering your life. In order to leave the money-ordered-life, you need a wholistic alternative, and you need to know what that alternative can do for you and those around you. The gospel Jesus brings is that alternative. “God is reordering the world around himself. Consider your options and trust this good news.” It is not an event; it is a Way. But, assuming that actually living this Way is more involved than praying a prayer to get into heaven, how do actually we jump ship from the kingdom of money in this life into the emerging reign of Jesus? Does God’s alternative mean we won’t have jobs?
But I think this enough for one post.