Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Currency of God's Provision

What’s your all-time favorite movie car chase? I like the chase at the end of The Blues Brothers. Unlike the “realistic” chases of movies like The Bourne Identity and The French Connection, this one is supposed to be ridiculous. There are station wagons full of neo-Nazis flying through the air and falling inexplicably from hundreds of feet up, crashing down through the street below. There are dozens and dozens of police cars crashing into massive pile-ups. And, as the chase nears its end, the Blues Brothers’ black and white Dodge throws a rod, and oil begins to spray up on the window. Jake leans out the passenger window and wipes the windshield with his jacket sleeve. He makes a tiny little grimy break in the oil slick through which the driver can barely see anything. How they navigate the rest of the way to the Richard J. Daley center isn’t clear, but it also isn’t really important.

In today’s gospel lesson (Matthew 6:19-24), Jesus says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is healthy, your body will be full of light, but, if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Jesus uses an image—a metaphor—that doesn’t quite make sense in the 21st century. But I think we get the gist of what he’s trying to say. The eye is the window through which light enters in. Light, of course, is good, and darkness is bad. We want light to come into the body, and it makes sense that if one’s eye isn’t working properly one can’t get light inside. Medically speaking, that doesn’t make a lot difference to your spleen or your stomach or your kidneys, but we gather from Jesus’s example that back then it was thought to be important. But Jesus isn’t worried about our physical health. He’s trying to make a point about our spiritual lives.

In addition to your eye being the lamp through which light enters the body, you also have a lamp inside of you, which has the potential to shine out into the world. But, just as a bad eye has the ability to prevent light from entering the body, so, too, is the lamp inside vulnerable to obscurity. Jesus is asking us whether our lamp is able to shine. What has the power to snuff out that lamp? Money. Jesus talks more about money than about anything else. It’s his favorite topic because he knows that it has incredible power to quench our internal light. You cannot serve two masters, he says. And it’s remarkable to me that 2000 years later we’re still struggling with the same thing.

Money itself isn’t bad. Neither are wood and stone and precious metals, but human beings have a tendency to take those things and make idols with them. So, too, does money become an idol of our worship. What is it that provides food for your family? What is it that makes it possible to live in your house? What do we retire on? What do we send our kids to college with? What is the source of our very life? Is it money, or is it God? It’s hard to retire on God. Banks and colleges and grocery stores won’t accept our prayers. But money isn’t bad. Money is merely the currency of God’s provision. It takes practice and intentionality to remember that money isn’t what drives our lives. It takes faith to remember where it all really comes from. 

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