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The Corruptible “P’s” Week 3

Devotional for the week of June 19, 2017


Monday

Bob the mentor was keenly aware that the corruptible P’s were dangerous to the soul, church and community, since it is easy to justify the behavior of them.  Power isn’t always bad, but when used for ‘me-ism’, it becomes a weapon to hurt, lord over or oppress others.  Few people would say that they want power for these reasons but history has shown us, time and again, that power can corrupt anyone.  Last week we explored prestige, and the desire to be seen in a certain light, without necessarily being authentic.  Prestige looks for advantage and looks down upon others.  In essence, prestige is our great ego-out-of-control issue that, often, is named pride.  


Today, we turn to the final corruptible P—profit.  Profit is the motivation that drives countless people, and cultures, for more.  Profit is often seen as a god in which, if we just get enough of it, then we will be happy, healthy and secure.  Profit too often is viewed as the highest good, which most often creates great inequality and oppression in the pursuit of profit (think slavery, sweat shops, child labor, etc.).  


In a society that has so much profit, why is it that we still live with a scarcity mindset?  If we are the wealthiest country in the world, with the majority of the wealthiest individuals, why is there anyone in need, among us?  Perhaps the root of this is that we often look up the ladder of success, eyeing what we don’t have, rather than seeing the whole ladder and the reality of how much abundance is within our lives.


Even worse, is realizing that the ladder we have been trying to climb is meaningless.  Thomas Merton once said, “People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.”  The intoxication of profit can often lead us up the wrong ladder leaving us with rungs of regret, remorse and loss of meaning.  This week, we’ll explore the scriptures and their invitation to checking our motives and living simply.


Tuesday

In Jesus’ inaugural sermon, The Sermon on the Mount, he profoundly offers us these words—“Seek first God’s Kingdom and God’s righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well” (speaking of food and clothing—the necessities of life).  It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?  We spend our lives worrying about this-and-that when, in truth, the God we follow is a God who gives the necessities of life.


Israel has a story to tell, in trusting in God for the necessities of life.  They have just exited Egypt where they dwelled as slaves making Pharaoh a rich man.  Day after day, they murmur complaints and prayers to God about their situation in life.  They are used, oppressed and treated as objects, rather than people.  


God shows up and frees them from this cruel world, where profit was causing such pain.  As they enter the desert, they enter with no food or water.  They have walked away from the crushing god of profit, by following the God of provision.  As they enter the barren land, their mouths get cottony from thirst and they immediately want to go back, rather than move forward.  Yet water flows from the rock to refresh the people.  Then their bellies rumble with the pains of hunger and they, once more, want to go back to being enslaved as they cried ‘at least our bellies were full!’  Then the gift of manna graces them!


Read Exodus 16:4-12.  There is an interesting contrast between their old life and the new.  With Pharaoh, they had enough to eat daily, yet lived in an economy in which only Egypt flourished.  He gave just enough to keep them full but the cost to their lives was enormous.  They were building the buildings to hold his wealth, of which they got a morsel for themselves.  In the desert, they have enough every day to nourish and lead them.  The food came from an economy of grace where God provided for their daily need.  They were free to worship, to create new life and be assured that God was with them.  They sought the Lord and discovered enough for this day!  Do you have enough for this day?


Wednesday

A question I often hear is whether money, or wealth, is good or bad.  Of course, there are countless groups that sway to either side of money-is-evil or money-is-a-sign-of-God’s-blessing.  Yet, I think we miss the point.  Money is inanimate.  It is nothing, really.  We are the ones that put value to it as well as create the desire for it.  It is the heart and soul of a person that influences whether wealth is good or bad.  


Perhaps you have heard Jesus’ teaching about the rich young ruler.  Read Mark 10:17-31.  What do you glean from this reading?  I believe this teaching is about trust…or better yet, what we actually believe in.  This young man was doing all the right things but was missing the heart.  He trusted in his stuff, his wealth, more than anything else.  The stuff, Jesus points out, is his god.  


Jesus’ statement resounds in our world of abundance.  Many don’t have that deep need to rely on, and trust in, God’s provision, for they have plenty.  They view their stuff as ‘my doing’ and often it blinds them to the deeper world of faith, walking and trusting in God, when there is nothing else but that.  It isn’t until we have a real crisis where our stuff, abilities and wit will not help us.  It is in those moments that we are driven into a faith that must rely on something greater than oneself, and turn to God and others for help.


Perhaps that is why the practice of faith is exploding in places around the globe that have nothing, and the places of abundance—America, Europe, Australia and the like—are seeing faith becoming less and less a part of life.  While abundance makes us comfortable, can it make us faithful?  I think it depends on the person and their orientation toward the ‘profits’ of their lives—is this gift to be shared or is it mine, mine, mine?


Thursday

Another passage from The Sermon on the Mount shines a light on the struggle humanity has faced with profit.  Read Matthew 6:22-24.  Jesus is speaking of sight…how we see informs what we are.  When we get our seeing right, everything else falls in line.  I believe that spirituality is the path of learning to see clearly.  It is learning to reorient our sight of others, our stuff, our self and God, so that it may be as it should be.


Often it feels that profit is treated as a god in itself.  What we run after is ultimately what we trust in.  Profit is often revealed as greed, but let’s be honest…how many people raise their hands when asked “Are you greedy?”  Of course not!  We want to believe that we are generous with what we have and have 20/20 vision.


And yet, the average American donates less than 4% of their salary.  Sure, we can justify it by saying that it isn’t my responsibility; if I had more money then I’d give more (no statistical proof in that!); I have vacations to take, school to pay for, the new iPhone to purchase, etc.  I think the way we use our profit determines what we believe about it!  So how much is fair?  Historically, Christianity has named 10% as the fair charitable giving…though I think that is just a start!  Or in the wise words of Winston Churchill, “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” 


Friday

St. Francis of Assisi may be the most beloved saint of Christianity.  He is the Patron Saint of Animals, Ecology and Merchants.  What many don’t know about Francis is that he shunned his father’s wealth and lived the rest of his life in poverty of riches, but in the wealth of God’s abiding presence, and the blessings of creation, creatures and people.  He learned the art of embodying Christ by seeing that our purpose is to live in a place of union with God and all around us.  Read his lovely poem today…

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.


O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.


Saturday

The corruptible P of profit is realized when we place profit before people; trust in possessions more than God; and see the world through the lens of what-I-might-gain rather than what-I-might-give.  On this day, how might you wrestle with this corruptible P in your life?  Again, if spirituality is about seeing clearly, we must be willing to name who we are, in order for us to grow.  To be fair, Jesus’ invitation to speak of possessions and profit (a favorite topic of his) was about where we place our faith, trust and loyalty.  


Today, may you discern the deeper things of the soul so you can grow more, give more and learn the freedom of simplicity.  The great mystic, Thomas à Kempis shared, “Purity and simplicity are the two wings with which man soars above the earth and all temporary nature.”  May you soar today!


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