[843 acres] Why I Am Ashamed

by Bethany

In his recent op-ed, David Brooks chastised the Religious Right. [New York Times, The Next Culture War]. And, in my mind, he was correct to do so.

We pick up our abortion signs. We preach judgment on “liberals.” We stand “at the pole” to promote prayer in schools. We argue at the Supreme Court for First Amendment rights.

But, when it comes to economic values, where have we been? With our myopic focus on the social and moral legislation of our country, we have ignored the personal obedience and self-denial that is required in the Christian life. Consider:

  • Why do we amass debt if we believe that this life is fleeting? “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth … but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” [Matthew 6:19-21, NIV].
  • Why do we pursue our own happiness in goods and toys outside of Christ and the cross? “And [Jesus] said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole word and loses or forfeits himself?'” [Luke 9:23, ESV].

As we have pointed our finger at Washington or New York and told them that the problem lies there, we have ignored what lies within. Rather than disciplining or denying ourselves over the past few years, we have spent more (until we have exploded). As Brooks points out:

In the three decades between 1950 and 1980, personal consumption was remarkably stable, amounting to about 62 percent of G.D.P. In the next three decades, it shot upward, reaching 70 percent of G.D.P. in 2008. During this period, debt exploded. In 1960, Americans’ personal debt amounted to about 55 percent of national income. By 2007, Americans’ personal debt had surged to 133 percent of national income.

When I read the Brooks op-ed, I was ashamed of myself. How often have I spoken of the “big issues” in politics while I have ignored the seemingly “small issues” of my own personal obedience?

Have we missed our opportunity to demonstrate the beauty of a life of self-denial? Is it too late to show that we love the Lord so much that we do not need the “riches” of this world more than the “riches” of the one to come because, for us, “to live is Christ and to die is gain”?

4 Comments to “[843 acres] Why I Am Ashamed”

  1. RIght on! I really wonder if we even know how to deny self in our culture? And isn’t this oddly connected to the whole lack of self-control/self-regulation that Amy Julia talks about in her post?

  2. Interesting point, Chin Chin. Do we even know how to be self-controlled in our culture? The answer to this question has a strong foundation in Amy Julia’s post. Her post points out the self-control is a “fruit of the Spirit,” which means that it results from having the Spirit within oneself. That being true, can anyone who does not have the Spirit have self-control?

  3. The experience of common grace–that is, people who are not professing Christians who nonetheless exhibit truth, goodness, love, and other virtues–implies to me that self-control is possible for many of us, even without an explicit profession of faith. With that said, I also believe that inviting the Spirit in enables us to receive self-control as “fruit” rather than to work at it. So maybe there are two types of self-control, self-generated and Spirit-generated.

  4. Such a great posting. Something definitely to think about, pray about and ask God for help with!

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