Recalling a Sermon on Contentment

I haven’t listened to many sermons in the last few years, but I did tonight. It was a simple message, but it helped me see some blind spots.

The preacher shared a quote from Voltaire. It basically said ‘God created man in his image and man has attempted to return the favor.’ What this means, is that we try to create a version of God in our mind that fits our life. If we value financial stability and providing for our family above everything, we twist God into this being that understands when we hoard our money and don’t give with open hands to the poor. If we value romantic relationships above everything, we twist God into this being that understands and welcomes our sexual sin.

The preacher said we should twist ourselves to align with God instead.

“There are things about Jesus that I don’t like,” the preacher said. “There are commands that Jesus makes that are hard for me. But we cannot twist Jesus into something we like. We must twist ourselves instead. Die to ourselves and learn to cling to Jesus more.”

He went on to say that Jesus was radical. Jesus didn’t know where he would eat the next day. Jesus didn’t know where he would sleep the next night. But he still relied on God. Because Jesus was radical, we should live radical lives too; giving our security away so our brothers and sisters can eat, abstaining from sexual immorality when the world promotes lust.

The preacher said the reason we are not content is because we don’t really believe that Jesus is enough to sustain us.

These are things I have been hearing in church circles for a long time, but they struck me tonight. Dying to myself is hard. Believing ‘Jesus is enough’ all the time is hard. But twisting God into my own image does not work.

Misheard Lyrics

So I was listening to a Blackalicious song “Blazing Arrow,” and I heard a line that intrigued me. What I heard was “the kind of homeless only God can know.” The line, in fact, is “the kind of onus only God can know.” Either one really gets me thinking. Onus means a difficult task, burden or obligation, and for me I immediately think about sacrifice. But homeless, somehow affected me more.

There have been stories in the newspaper recently about a sculptor who installed small statues of a homeless Jesus on a park bench or street corner with a hand extended begging for change. The only way one knows it is Jesus depicted is by the holes in his hands. One such sculpture showed up in my home town in Connecticut in front of an Episcopal Church. People passing on the street were startled and so was I when I went for a walk late one night on main street. Who is this homeless man begging at one in the morning? I walk pretty late at night and had never seen someone begging for money that late before. Nor had I ever seen someone begging for money in my home town, which should inform you of the kind of place I grew up.

Some people even called the cops on the homeless statue. 

I was glad for the culture shock. It made me stop what I was doing and think. What am I doing to help those with outstretched arms? I have heard people say some version of this next sentence a lot lately. “Oh, I’m not giving them any money. They are just going to buy drugs or beer or cigarettes with it.” Congratulations, you have become the morality police. Walking around, being stingy with your money and “cleaning” up the streets with every dollar you stuff back into you wallet, only to spend it on some pumpkin spice latte that will kill you in 30 years.

But I’ve had these thoughts too. What I decided is that instead of not giving the money away, I am going to ask the homeless man or woman I encounter, if I can go to the nearest (crowded) deli or coffee shop with them and buy them something to eat or drink. I have not done it frequently. Sometimes I’m still too scared or maybe too stingy and think I don’t have much myself.

I heard this in a sermon recently. Those who make $40,000/year or below give slightly over 10% of their income. For every $10,000/year more that people make, they tend to give away 1 to 2% less. Let me sum that up: the more you make the less (percentage) you give. I’m not saying this occurs across the board but it does leave me pondering.

I want to start good habits of giving while I have very little, and plan to give away consistently, even if it’s not much. I think it’s good for your heart to get used to that posture.

Sometimes mishearing lyrics can open a whole new door in your mind. Sometimes it can change your perceptions.