A couple of months ago I was sitting in church as usual, after having rolled out of bed and finding my place after the first worship song was halfway over. In many ways I am blessed to be a part of a congregation that tries its hardest to be outwardly focused. Our pastor has a huge vision for reaching out to developing countries like India, Nicaragua, Honduras, Cambodia and several nations in Africa. On this sunday morning, we had a special guest from Peru. He was actually a candidate for President of Peru in the previous year and is the pastor of one of the largest churches in that South American country. Before his candidacy, he had connected with our pastor and built a strong relationship. He was here for a conference that our Spanish-Speaking congregation had organized, but he wanted to address our main service and send greetings from his church in Peru. What he said in his address was pretty usual in that he was glad to be here, he loved our church and what we were doing in the nations and so on. But at the end of his dialog, he said something that made the whole church fall silent.
“In Peru, we have a disease, that disease is poverty. In America, you also have a disease. That disease is your wealth.”
I don’t know if he realized the stir that he caused. Americans, especially those who aren’t particularly well off have a hard time acknowledging the fact that their wealth has separated them from the rest of the world. The West is overflowing with Milk and Honey. Those who do not have it, want it, badly. Money is the single greatest status symbol because it can get you to the top, it can make you look powerful, it gains you respect. Recently, The Office(U.S. version here) debuted its fourth season. An employee who had until the last episode of season three, been at the bottom of the totem pole, was promoted to a very high corporate level. All his former co-workers looked at him in awe: all the money he made, his new fancy suits, his sex appeal. That was all they could see, that was all the valued in him. But later in the same episode, a former female co-worker rejected his advances, thoroughly embarrassing him. We all know that this whole money thing doesn’t buy us happiness. I certainly don’t want to beleaguer that point! but for those of you like me… who are by no means rich, who want to live a simpler life, who want to be environmentally conscious, who want to live their lives in a radical revolutionary way… how do we escape this totally ingrained part of our culture?
In a very overly simple response. This humble pastor from Peru answered my question. We live in a diseased world. Money is probably at the core of this disease. It affects us cross-culturally, trans-nationally, globally. The cure lies in the hands of the Kingdom of God, yet so many of us cannot shake this disease off. My chains are so heavy, my sickness is so strong, so controlling, that i cannot get off the ground, I cannot move to pick up my cross and follow Jesus.