Perspective After I Heard About The Branches

27 03 2009

A man I (to be honest) barely knew before he left to work in Jordan (the country in the Mid-East, not the basketball player), wrote a great story over at his blog.  I wish I knew Brian better before he left, because I was just starting to form a connection with him, his wife and his kids, through a video I filmed for the church, dedicating their daughter to the Lord.  

We talked a little more after that, and then he had to leave.  But I think we shared a lot of perspective on things.  Anyway, Brian wrote a post a little while back that I just got around to reading.  I suggest you read it, because honestly, what I say next is kind of all about that.  It may or may not make sense without the context, so…yeah.  Do as you will.

Anyway, what he said really got me thinking, especially with the very apt section from the book of Jonah about the vine.

It got me thinking about social class.  It got me thinking about wealth.  It got me thinking about all the ways in which we, who are privileged, become even more greedy.  

Now, before you cluck at me and think to yourself: “Maybe YOU find yourself more greedy, but really, that’s not the case with me!”

And if you’re right, then that’s awesome.  Of course it could just be me.

But I think it’s probably NOT just me.  See, let’s start with social class.  I was challenged recently by another friend of mine who I respect greatly (who also happens to be a pastor), David (who has a great blog too, by the way) when talking about ‘white privilege’ and our responsibility as Christians to remain vigilant about racism.

I am still unsettled about things (mind you, I think race relations are a tricky subject, so I don’t feel so bad about not being completely “done” yet) but in general, what I take from it is that I tend to take my status for granted.  Regardless of whether it came from said white privilege or if it came from hard work, or if it was (as I think most things are) simply a gift from God, it’s still a good life position to be in.  I have two kids.  I have a great and loving wife.  I have a home.  I have a job.  And especially in this economy, the desire is to hold on tight.  To keep a death grip on those things, because dammit, those things aren’t certain!  Jobs get taken away.  Families, even good loving ones split sometimes.  Kids learn to hate their fathers.  Whatever.  Stuff happens.  So we get greedy there.  We take for granted our current place and whatever it took to get there.  (Like I said, if it’s God, then we’re then taking God’s work in our lives for granted!)  But we try to do anything we can to “hoard” the things we have.  

Same thing goes for money.  No one wants to lose money, so when I get it, I tend to hoard it.  I feel better when I’ve got a dollar amount in the bank that has at least two zeroes in it.  I feel secure then.  I may not have a present need for that money (hence, why it’s in my account and not in the coffers of a creditor or something) but I feel better knowing it’s there.  On the flipside, when it’s not there (even when the bills are paid and my family is fed) I get cranky.  I get nervous.  I think “God, where are you in my time of need?”

I get greedy.  I get “hoard-y”.  Because that too, can be taken away.  It’s not certain either!

When it’s not about status, or money, it’s about time.  If I’ve been taxed all day by my kids, or when work has been super busy, or when for some reason, I just haven’t had a chance to sit all day… when I get a chance for “me time”, I’m a lump.  I’m a worthless piece of consumeristic trash that can’t get enough time with the TV or the video game console, the internet, or whatever.  That’s “me time”.  That can be taken away too.  I mean, you saw my day!  I’m happy I’m getting now!  I’d better soak it all in while I can, because later?  Later I’m going to be tired, and have to do it all over again!  Having free time isn’t certain!  It can be taken away!  I must hoard it while I can!

Same goes with food and a stocked pantry.  Same goes with “stuff” and the lack of “current” stuff versus hand-me-downs or tech that’s not cutting-edge.

So you get my point.  I’ve beaten that horse to death and back.  So what is this all about?

Well, I think Brian’s story, as well as the passage in Jonah, and I also think, what we see in the book of Job, is that everything we are and everything we have is God’s.  We own nothing.  On top of that, we deserve nothing!

Where do we get off?  Where do I get off acting like some snotty rich kid who thinks he deserves the world on a platter?  

See, I don’t think anyone desires to be in the position that “Joe” is in, in Brian’s story.  He’s in a bad social class.  He doesn’t have much money.  His time is taken up by menial tasks, with likely little time for himself.  He doesn’t have much stuff.  He doesn’t even have much room for the little he has.

But he wants to serve.

Did you get that?  Let me say it again.

He WANTS to SERVE.

When what I have is threatened, I WANT TO PROTECT.  I WANT TO HOARD.  I WANT TO BUILD THE DEFENSES!  Service is last on my mind.

I wonder about that.  I’m ashamed by that.  I see nothing of God in that.

So, while no one would want to be in Joe’s position…perhaps he is indeed the lucky one.  Perhaps this is what Jesus speaks about when he says:

 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, 
      for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
 Blessed are those who mourn, 
      for they will be comforted. 
 Blessed are the meek, 
      for they will inherit the earth. 
 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 
      for they will be filled. 
 Blessed are the merciful, 
      for they will be shown mercy. 
 Blessed are the pure in heart, 
      for they will see God. 
 Blessed are the peacemakers, 
      for they will be called sons of God. 
 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, 
      for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 

 

See, those branches that were cut…the intention was to help the tree.  To do a service for Brian.  One he didn’t even ask for.  But our kneejerk reaction (and I thank Brian so much for his honesty) is to say “Hey!  That’s MY tree!”

But those in a lowly position have nothing to claim.  They have nothing to protect.  They have nothing to be greedy about.  If they try to serve, it comes (I think) from a much purer place.  Because they give out of compulsion to serve Christ and others, not from some guilt of riches, or some desire to keep a code, or balance some cosmic scorecard.

I guess all of this rambling is to say that I’m quite appreciative of this story, for Joe’s action, and for Brian’s honest re-telling of the story, so I could gain a little perspective.  That what I have is God’s.  That what I am, is God’s.  That I don’t have the right to be greedy.  I have the privilege to serve.  In fact, my position, my wealth, my time, my stuff, EVERYTHING really only gives me a better footing on which I can minister!  I have more time, more money, more status, more stuff, more…whatever with which I can serve!

I know I get this wrong ALL THE TIME.  I wonder if it’s something you have trouble with too…  I wonder if you’ve thought about this perspective.  

Sometimes, it takes a clearing of the branches, though.  

So you can see past yourself, and let God through your walls, to speak to your heart.  Thanks, God, for speaking to me through Brian’s walls, since I wasn’t humble or loving you enough to allow my own to come down first.

You rock that way.

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One response

27 03 2009
David Swanson

Well said Larry. I know my tendency towards selfishness increases greatly when my resources seem threatened. Thanks.

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