This being the season of love and hope for so many AND for many a time of sadness and despair, I would like to remind you of the abundance in this world and with the following “reflection” help you see that there IS more than enough to go around…..and there is proof!
…….Excerpts from a Reflection by Rev Gail Miller
Don’t you love that phrase?
“The economy of God.”
Maybe you didn’t know there was one?
We certainly all know about
the economy of capitalism
or the economy of socialism.
We know about bull markets and bear markets
and the laws of supply and demand.
But the economy of God? What is that?
Any economy is a structure,
a set of rules about how goods and services
pass between people and groups of people.
Yes that is a very simple definition.
But I’m a theologian not an economist
and the definition will suffice for our purposes today.
The economy of God is all about abundance.
Every parable Jesus tells
Every miracle he performs
Every action he takes contains a message
about how God relates to us, loves us
in a way that is pure, uninhibited, wildly extravagant abundance.
Almost all spiritual paths agree that
abundance is created by giving never by hording
- a direct challenge to the idea
that you have to save money in order to have money.
The spiritual idea is that when you give
there is more of what you have given in the world
and in the sacred mystery of divine abundance
when there is more of anything in the world
there is more of it for everyone, including yourself.
Sounds good doesn’t it?
Do you believe it?
It isn’t so difficult to believe
but it is very difficult to live.
It seems there is this little contradiction
between our faith and our experience,
between our belief and our practice.
Here’s the thing.
The economy of God is intelligible
only by the logic of faith.
But most of us have been indoctrinated
into the logic of the market place.
It is a system we accept and perpetuate.
These two forms of logic contradict one another.
Our world seems to operate on market logic
with the basic premise being
that there isn’t enough to go around.
You have to fight for what you get.
You have to be vigilant over what you have.
If you give something away,
be it money or love or anything else,
well, then you have less than what you started with
- which is counter intuitive
because the name of this market logic game
is to get more and more and more.
Market logic – far from perceiving abundance
it actually teaches us to perceive scarcity.
Be careful, you may not have enough . . .
It is hard to live the way of abundance
because we aren’t used to it, and we are suspicious of it
You know the argument
If there is so much abundance why are people
living under bridges and starving to death?
That we engage in and support and live within
political and financial systems
that see us spend billions of dollars on war,
destroy entire countries for oil resources,
and throw food away by the pound
to maintain the delicate balance
of supply and demand that fuels
our economic systems while half the world starves
. . . well if that is not an attitude of scarcity
I don’t know what is.
We believe there isn’t enough to go around,
that we will lose what we have in order to give to others.
And then we use that argument as proof
that abundance is false and scarcity is real.
It is a lovely system we have created for ourselves.
The logic of the market
- it’s a dangerous group delusion.
So how do you opt out of this delusion
and still live within its system?
How do you live with the logic of faith
and trust the economy of God?
I don’ t have that answer.
I only know this.
It comes down to who you want to be.
It comes down to who you trust.
I value my financial advisor
but I trust Jesus Christ.
And in today’s scripture story
Jesus give us some his wisdom about giving.
The story unfolds in a series of three movements
beginning with a wide panoramic view
of the temple courts,
then moving into a mid range view of the scribes,
and finally closing into an intimate shot
to capture just one image – a widow
walking to the treasury with her coins.
In among the crowd are the scribes.
They are walking among the people
dressed in long, rich flowing robes.
They are symbols of power and authority.
You remember the scribes.
They are experts in the Torah, the law.
They assisted in the many legal
and social transactions
that took place between people
and they were ultimately responsible
to ensure that the law was practiced
in such a way as to take care of
the most vulnerable in society.
We already know that there is no love lost
between Jesus and the scribes.
On one of those days in the temple courts
Jesus said to his disciples
Do you see that?
Watch these displays
scribes who like to walk around
in their long flowing robes,
making their way through the crowds
seeking honor and praise.
Watch how they demand respect
and sit in the best seats in the synagogue
and hold places of honor at banquets.
Watch how they accept the honor
yet deny their responsibilities.
Listen to how they claim to serve God,
yet have no compassion and take no responsibility
for those of low rank on the social scale.
In particular he mentions widows.
Beware the scribes who devour a widow’s house,
take every last penny from her
and then for the sake of appearance
lead long winded prayers
filled with holy words at the time of worship.
It is scathing critique.
Among the many in Jesus day
who belonged to the lower classes,
a widow in particular suffered a cruel existence.
Women in general did not have any wealth.
Their only sustenance came from their marriage.
A woman would be in her father’s care and protection
until such time as she married,
when she would have to rely on her husband.
But what happened when her husband died?
She could not inherit any wealth from him
- that would go to male heirs, brothers or sons.
Unless she remarried – which was rare,
or went to live with her parents – if they were still alive,
or with a son – if she happened to have one,
her circumstances were very dire
- for she lost whatever wealth she had
Poverty was a common enough affliction for many
but a widow suffered in an entirely different way
because as a woman she would
not be able to work or earn money
for that was a male privilege.
She had absolutely no way
to earn her own money
or take care of her basic needs without assistance.
She could never get back on her feet by her own wits
no matter how smart, how able, how independent.
She could not help herself at all.
She was completely dependent
on the goodwill of others for whatever she had.
That the scribes would walk around in long robes,
seeking honor and privilege
while living off the backs of poor widows
was absolutely more than Jesus could stand,
and gives some context to his words.
It is with this understanding
that Mark sets up the next scene.
Jesus and the disciples sit down
and they watch the long lines of people
walking into the temple,
approaching the treasury
and making their offerings.
He sees many of the richest folks
dressed in fine linens pour bags of money
into the temple treasury . . .
coins glinting in the sunlight
Then Jesus sees her.
One who is burdened,
A woman . . . alone . . . no fine linen on her.
Amid the ostentation of the scribes
and the overpowering glory of the temple
comes this one, a poor widow.
She does not approach with a bag of money,
but scraping together any dignity she might have
she takes careful steps toward the treasury.
In her hands she holds two small, dull, copper coins
together worth barely a penny
she reaches out and drops them into the treasury.
It barely makes a sound.
Does anyone else even notice her?
Can anyone else even guess
at the level of her generosity?
Or are their eyes blinded
by the worthlessness of her two coins?
But Jesus sees. He sees clearly
and he is deeply moved saying
“Truly I tell you, this poor widow
has put in more than all the others.
For all of them have contributed
from their excess,
but she out of her poverty
has put in everything she had,
all she had to live on.”
She gave it all.
Is it any wonder that Jesus is so moved?
This is the last of the temple controversies.
After this Jesus is arrested for sedition
and publicly executed on the cross.
The time is very near when Jesus will,
in an incredible and paradoxical display
of abundant love
give every thing he has.
He will give himself away.
He will give his life – not out of duty, or obligation,
but out of his deep love
and great passion for humanity.
Of all the giving in the temple that day
the widow with but two coins to her name
is the one to watch.
Her actions show that she understands
how giving is an act of heart not of material goods.
From the depths of her being the words rise
I have nothing to speak of, nothing of earthly value
But even this little bit that I have
I give it all, every bit of me to this hope this belief
In God and what God can make possible.
It is stunning really, when you think about it.
The widow and Jesus will give different things.
One her last penny, the other his very life,
but both give from the same place
It can be difficult for us
- ones who have so much wealth
and a fair amount of privilege and power
to hear such a passage.
Is the widow an example we are asked to imitate?
Yes. But not in the way we think.
I don’t think Jesus encourages widows
to give away their last penny.
I don’t think Jesus asks us
to give away everything we have.
But he does ask us to watch and to notice
not what we give but how we give it.
Because something in how we give what we give
opens up the life that Jesus talks about.
If we want to experience the life that Jesus promises.
Watch, watch the widow.
See her and her gift and her mighty heart.
It is a glimpse of God’s economy.
How is it that we give?
Which economy do we trust?
Which economy do we invest in?
The real question I hear Jesus asking:
How much of myself do I really give?
When I give of my time
or my money or my heart
am I doing it fully?
Am I giving my whole self,
or just the part that happens to be available?
Am I “all in” or hedging my bet or, worse yet, bluffing?
Do I give what happens to
fall off the side of my desk,
that which I didn’t really, really need anyway
or am I offering what is my best,
that which costs me, that which is most valuable and dear to me
that which really matters to me
be it money, or time, or energy, or love, or passion.
If I gave of myself this way,
the way the widow does,
what wisdom, what way, what gift, what door would open?
How would that life Jesus promised
live in me more fully and deeply?
The widow is an example to imitate
but we are not asked to imitate her poverty,
rather the depth of her heart
and the fullness with which she gives it.
A gift, Jesus says, far more valuable
than ten tons of gold let alone
two copper coins worth less than a penny.
Jesus watched the widow that day.
And he tells us to watch.
Watch what you give
when you are with a person you love.
Is there anything that you will not offer
to your partner, your child,
your parent where there is love,
trust and commitment between you?
Watch what you give when you are working
toward a goal that you love.
Is there any time or money or skill
that you hold back when your dream is within your grasp?
There is no calculation in in this kind of love.
No estimate of income tax benefits to be gained.
No pride in giving large amounts of cash or time or skill.
When you are in love with God,
when you deeply trust that God is in love with you,
then it doesn’t matter if all you have to offer is two cents.
What matters is giving what you have to give
And doing it with the whole of yourself
Invested, available, willing, passionate
And giving to something beyond your own self,
Your own need you own life.
Watch that one, Jesus says,
Watch the one with the mighty heart.
We can choose to resist the logic of the market
that scares us into second guessing
the call to generosity.
We can choose to step more deeply
into the economy of God
and the blessings it brings.
Trusting the economy of God.
I tried that once, pushed on that promise
pushed on it hard enough to know
in my heart of hearts it is true
this whole divine economy of abundance.
A number of years ago
at a time of pretty big financial struggle for my family
I was trying to find a way to live another reality
I read Deepak Chopra’s book
The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success
There were seven laws of course
But the one that really caught my curiosity
Was this one.
Give something to everyone you meet.
And this was the exercise that went with it.
Absolutely everyone you encounter
for one entire day
give them something,
give whatever you have to give, just GIVE.
Don’t fret, don’t calculate, don’t make judgments
about what you give or how much you give.
Just give whatever you can in the moment.
It might be money,
it might be a kind word, a good thought,
a prayer, a moment’s compassion – whatever.
So one day, this is what I did . . . and let me just admit
I was highly suspicious and doubtful
But I did it anyway.
I started the day with five DOLLARS
I kept giving them away
and at the end of the day I had six dollars!
I’d give away a DOLLAR,
then I’d find a DOLLAR on the sidewalk three blocks later.
I’d give a DOLLAR to a homeless person
then find a DOLLAR in my car.
I gave a guy four DOLLARS to buy a parking ticket.
He found me in the movie theater later
and gave me a five dollar bill.
I was like “really . . . are you kidding me?”
I spent all day giving away what I had
and at the end of the day I had more
than what I had at the beginning of my giving.
It was ridiculous . . . and amazing.
So I know it’s true.
It was just one of those days
when you can’t argue.
I mean what are the chances that
would just be a coincidence.
I know it is true
but I struggle to find the courage to really live into it.
I mean I didn’t go out the next day and repeat
the same exercise using $100 bills.
But I kept giving every day
And here is what I learned.
I learned that five bucks given
might not result in five bucks received,
but five somethings would come my way.
I learned that in divine abundance
all things are not equal
but all things are in balance
and not everything we receive
can be converted to currency
but everything has its own unique richness.
The economy of God – isn’t an obvious economy.
It is not like you give away $10,000
and the next day the express post
arrives from heaven with your original $10,000
plus divine interest.
If it was that way,
we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
It surely is a more subtle economy
with blessing arriving in all kinds of ways
- some very unexpected.
It is not the way of the world market
but it is the way of God.
The economy of God –
and a mighty heart
Now there is an equation that
can change the way we give
and change the way we live.
May it be so. Amen.
*Thanks to Rev. Ed Searcy for his reflections on this passage.
Read More of Mona’s Abundance Blog Here