It is hard to look at a newspaper or watch a television show or hear a radio show, or for that matter, have a conversation, these days without the subject of the national debt coming up. I read the paper. I listen to the radio, and I wonder, “Who’s right?” and “Is there any way to tell?” And “Where is God in all of this?”
Some of you may say, “Well, this doesn’t have anything to do with God. It’s about greed and dishonesty and just bad luck.” Others might have clear beliefs about whether we should have a smaller or larger government, or what it will take to resolve the debt crisis, or how we will get more people back to work and back in homes. And these arguments may be backed by the views presented by the Republican side of the house or the Democrats’ side of the house. But do we really know? Can we really know?
After all, those in Washington are advised by the best and the brightest on both sides of the financial and accounting and political fence. If they can’t figure it out or agree, what chance do we common mortals have? It seems to me that in times like these, God does have something to say.
For instance, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We all know someone who is out of a job or underemployed or struggling to pay their bills. How might we participate in community building, first getting to know our neighbors, saying hello, talking enough to find out how they are doing, and reaching out to offer a helping hand when necessary? Of course, this requires that we carefully consider how, that we stop and look and listen, that we take the time, that we actually know our neighbors, and that we check in with them regularly and communicate openly and honestly. Perhaps we give up an hour of television each night to do it. But can you imagine what could happen if Americans decided to take the second commandment seriously on a moment by moment basis?
Or how about not “coveting” what our neighbors have? I realize that buying “stuff” is touted as the very measure of the health of the American economy. But isn’t the lack of ability to buy “stuff” what makes us feel poor or as though we aren’t measuring up to our neighbors? What if we stopped valuing having more “stuff” so much? What if we invested our money in things that really mattered? Like quality health care? Like eating in ways that support our body’s health? Like buying things that last rather than those that become undesirable when the next fad comes along? What if we shared what we have? Do we really need a lawn mower for every house in the neighborhood? A whole neighborhood filled with private decks and barbeques? What if instead of coveting what our neighbors have, we built community by considering all that we have and all that our neighbors have to be community property?
Or what about “working hard as unto the Lord?” In the old days, the class system meant that everyone who wasn’t rich worked as many hours as they could at whatever jobs they could. Clearly the class inequities were not a good thing, and abuses were rampant. But the fact that people did work that hard says to me that we can! So, what if we stepped it up – instead of working as little as we can to get by, what if we put in a little extra, worked a few extra hours, and ensured that our work really mattered rather than being “make work.” Imagine what 5 or 10% extra effort might mean to the products we create!
And perhaps, most importantly, “trusting God in all things.” The reality is that no matter how hard we try, no matter what answers we come up with on our own, we will never have it all figured out. We are imperfect and incomplete. And certainly those we elect to public office are imperfect and incomplete. It is crazy to expect that they (and we) will ever be otherwise. We will never be able to do it all on our own. There will always be uncertainties and things we can’t control. And if ever there was a time that that was true, it is now, when so many live in uncertainty and fear. I don’t think there is any way to move beyond uncertainty and fear except by trusting God, however we might understand God. If there is no God, I think we are all in trouble. So, I wonder what would happen if we turned our eyes heavenward a little more frequently, “turned things over to God as we understand God,” as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, a little more intentionally. Imagine the power of just that, the impact on us, our families, and the people around is, if more of us did lifted our eyes to the “higher things,” to what really matters, just a few minutes more each day. Will you join me?