Becoming as thin as this newspaper
The Rev. Torey Lightcap
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
If your newspaper has seemed thinner lately, take it as a sign of things to come.
Across the nation, a collective feeling of fiscal settling-in has begun to occur. We’re all looking for ways to trim, hunting for the unnecessary financial jots and tittles of our lives. What is it that we could recycle, reduce or eliminate altogether to save a buck?
Does a turnip bleed? Can you get water from a rock if you squeeze hard enough?
In his capacity as a prophetic voice for the ages, Jesus was all over bad economies because the one he lived in was pretty lousy. The Gospel of Luke relates Jesus’ “Parable of the Lost Coin”:
“What woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Remember that illustration and that joy next time you’re grubbing in your couch cushions for fallen change ” and not for a latte, but for gas money. There’s a shift going on: Three years ago most people wouldn’t stoop to pick up a penny. Now you and I both would at least give it a second thought (even if we do consider pennies to be obsolete or annoying).
Here’s another parable from the Gospel of Matthew: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who is a dealer in search of fine and precious pearls, who, on finding a single pearl of great price, went and sold all he had and bought it.”
This is about knowing what’s essential and being willing to let everything else go. Everything.
Real faith, deep prayer and genuine discernment in a community of faith all prepare us for the long moment of shucking off what is unimportant (which is what a lot of it is). And after that, what’s left? Your family. Your core convictions and sense of integrity. Your hope for forward momentum and doing good. Your relationship with the Something More that makes and holds and nurtures you. Very little in the way of things.
Such adjustments are not without pains. We can only pray such pains are momentary.
I don’t mean that money is the root of all evil (which is a poor misquotation anyway), or that wealth itself is a sin. (Obviously wealth is a gift to be shared.) Rather, I only mean to say what Paul told Timothy in his first letter:
“There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”
Not that we’ve begged to be rich ” rather, only to maintain the current style of living we’re used to. Maybe, though, even that needs correcting.
I have a notion that we all know these words of Paul to be true at the very bottom of our pragmatic selves, but that they’re slippery truths, in that they are not perceived as being conducive to the fantasy we have for ourselves about how we want to live. And so we choose a middle path between what is real and what is merely convenient.
An economic crisis such as we are now experiencing has a way of testing and correcting all that, of asking whether that lifestyle is actually working for you. For me and for my family, the answer has been a resounding “No.”
While I’m here I should be careful to say that I’m not assigning some imaginary moral blame for the market to any person, thing or idea. It is what it is, the losses are heavy and wrong, they should not have fallen upon you, and they are to be grieved over for a little while. Then we reconnoiter, rally and somehow move on.
Most likely in our rallying and our moving on we’ll have to get a little thinner, like this newspaper in your hands.
Take all this, then, for what it is: an invitation to self-examination.
The Rev. Torey Lightcap is priest-in-charge of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Glenwood Springs (www.saint-barnabas.info). Torey and his wife have two children and live in New Castle.
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