Wealth and the Sacred

Monetary wealth leading to material comfort, this is the hallmark of our age. I just watched President Trump’s inaugural address, coincidentally after finishing chapter 11 in N.T. Wright’s book Simply Jesus. If you have read Tom Wright and have heard Mr. Trump, then I do not have to explain that my head is running circles right now as I consider the areas of congruence and discord between them. As I listened to Mr. Trump I heard things I liked and could resonate with like reinforcing the nation’s infrastructure and raising the buying power of all citizens, and not pushing values on others but being a shining light.

In and of themselves these principles are commendable and I sincerely hope that the people of the United States rally behind them. But then I considered what Prof. Wright said about the kingdom which God intends to reign over on this earth and now I have to think. Because As I listened to the President it became clear that what drove his speech was money. Making sure that the American people have more money and better things; and that they were secure with that money and those things. I could go off right now and talk about his policies: isolationist ideals, extreme security and military demands, etc. but what I saw was President who seems to truly represent his society. We are a society obsessed with money, our lives and culture revolve around making money and accumulating things.

As I sit here and type it occurs to me that throughout the election there was no talk of making things more affordable (not even medication). The talk was about providing people with more resources to pay for life’s expenses; providing people with better paying jobs, access to public funds to pay for things. We want more, and as Mr. Trump said we are going to look out for ourselves so that we get it. What is the result of this desiring more, we lose the sacred.

We want more money, convenience, or possessions and we use all the space of creation to accommodate the desire, leaving no of it sacred. We do the same thing with our time, and again we have no sacred time. Of it all possessions are ours, then none are sacred. There is little land which cannot be possessed and turned to productivity. Not productivity in its true sense (productive as God’s creation) but productive as serving the ends of material culture. We are not at all concerned with developing thin places, where we might easily encounter the Divine. I do not mean that we are not concerned with preserving historical spots once considered sacred, we are more ready to do that, we are not worried about maintaining thin places in our own lives. We are not worried about carving places out in the world which can be sacred to us and maintaining these places. We worry about spending time at work and not about resting in the true home God wants to provide. We forget to take days to celebrate God and God’s world, rushing from work to vacation (whatever that means) and back to work. And we forget that material things are God’s and meant to lead us toward God. We collect and hoard things trying to make life easier or more enjoyable, seldom realizing that they are making the world less enjoyable.

What is the solution, I really do not know, but, I think I have a place to start. Take something of yours, something with some personal value, and put it somewhere, somewhere special. Then go to that spot remember the value of the spot and the value of the possession and dedicate it all to trying to know God. Do this with regularity the same hour, the same day, each week. Visit that spot, make it sacred, make it thin. Lift up prayers at that time, make the time sacred, interrupt life’s chaos, put money on the back burner. Let that possession which remains a part of that spot be a reminder of stepping out of the world and into God’s reality, God’s time, God’s place, God’s material.

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