Then He said to them, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions." [Luke 12:15 NASB]
Our church hosts CARITAS every year during Thanksgiving week. CARITAS (Congregations Around Richmond Involved To Assure Shelter) was organized in the early 1980's to respond to the huge unmet need for emergency shelter for homeless adults in the cold winter months. During Thanksgiving week we actually host families (including children).
This week the families are sleeping on cots in our church's multipurpose room/celebration center. I thought about the three families who attended worship at our church for the first time this morning, wondering what in the world they were seeing! Our pastor did an amazing job of explaining CARITAS and how our church participates. The guest families are only actually in the church overnight, so all we saw during worship is the cots and the 66-qt. bins that contain all their worldly possessions. (That’s about the size of the recycling bins we fill up every week!)
During the congregational prayer this morning the pastor asked each of us to get up and stand by one of the cots (or porta-cribs) and pray for the person who will be sleeping there tonight. Needless to say there were many of us in tears by the end of the prayer. In my case, the tears were tears of abject sorrow for the families who had found themselves suddenly homeless. The tears were also tears of gratitude mixed with a healthy dose of humility.
For me, it was a reminder to live with an attitude of abundance. Rob Bell talks about the danger of looking around and coveting what everyone else has. He reminds us that when we focus on keeping up a particular image or maintaining an “expected” standard of living we are living in danger! The danger? We begin to see our world as the world. Bell reminds/chastises us that to most of the world we are wealthy beyond imagining.
The website http://wiki.answers.com/ poses and answers the question which Bell refers to in a short video clip we viewed this morning in Sunday school, “How much money did America spend on Ice Cream in 2007?” The answer is “roughly 20 billion dollars—enough money to provide everyone in the world with clean water and food.” Considering that statistic, I am exceedingly blessed!
The other danger, to my mind, is that we become stingy when we perceive that we live in want. We stop trusting that God will provide for us, because our neighbor has more, or something better, newer, nicer, more . . . more . . . more . . . and our ‘stuff’ doesn’t look so good, or seem so nice and we perceive that we are needy.
When we trust in only ourselves, we edge out God and we cling to our possessions as if our lives depended upon them. We don’t share what we have and we don’t perceive that we are blessed. So we don’t live with an attitude of abundance. We don’t ask for manna in the desert because we never go there! We ask for stuff that we can enjoy in the oasis. And when the oasis gets crowded we start looking for a bigger oasis.
There have been a lot of cosmetic repairs we had planned to make to our house when we moved here in 2005. Three and ½ years later we still have most of those undone because of my husband’s job loss and subsequent underemployment for the past two and ½ years—we just can’t afford them!
Sometimes I get feeling pretty sorry for myself. From time to time I begin to resent that I can’t have a new kitchen floor unless I finance it with a credit card or new dishwasher or a new . . . well . . . I think you get the point. Then I’m reminded that I’m not living out of a 66-quart plastic bin. Then I remember that I have a comfortable, warm and inviting home where I cook the food I can afford to buy and sleep in the bed that I own and take a shower in my own bathroom.
Then I’m reminded that God has never failed me. He has never abandoned me. He makes a way for me to live – and yes – to live abundantly! I have so much more than I deserve. I have so many more things than I need. I am so blessed to be loved by a generous, loving, gracious God who waits for me to beg His forgiveness any time I have an occasional pity-party.
How about you?