A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Crisis of Success

The late F. Donald Coggan (1909-2000), the former Archbishop of Canterbury wrote a wonderful little book many years ago entitled, Christ and Our Crises. It is delightful to read and quite insightful. Over the years I periodically take it off my book shelf and read portions of it again. I was reading it the other day and came across the following in his chapter on "The Crisis of Success":

All too often, I suspect, Christianity has been thought of in terms of gloom. In the old days we used to bind our Bibles in black as if they were intended only for funereal occasions, not for joyous living day by day.The way we bound our Bibles in black made it seems as though God were on the side of the drab. What an extraordinary idea!

The Danish thinker Kierkegaard was himself a man greatly afflicted at times by gloom. But he once said he felt God behaves like both the cook and the artist, "Now for a pinch of spice-- a little touch of red.

I like that saying of Kierkegaard. You can see the cook taking a drab dish and making it much more interesting with a pinch of spice. Or you can picture the artist adding a magic touch of red. I believe God does that to life. Read the Gospels and you will see that Jesus is the heart and soul of the party at the wedding feast at Cana of Galilee. Quite clearly you see that He often found Himself more at home with worldly types than the sour-faced rigorists of the world about him.

Coggan's words are timely for us at the beginning of the twenty-first century. In the West, and especially in America, we have defined success in all the wrong ways. I know that right now many people want only to blame certain sectors or groups for our economic meltdown. Democrats blame the Republicans and Wall Street, Republicans blame the Democrats and their government created entities, Fannie and Freddie, and the sub-prime mortgage scheme. But since political posturing seldom gets to the truth, it needs to be said that a crisis this large could only result from a failure on all levels-- the government (Democrats and Republicans), the private sector (Wall Street), and yes, the average consumer (Main Street), all who have participated in the virtual money party over the past fifteen to twenty years. We have spent money we did not have and borrowed what we could never pay back. We have purchased houses that are too large for our income and automobiles that cost more than a down payment on a home. In the process of spending too much we have saved practically nothing. The chickens have now come home to roost and the farm is in foreclosure. What is going to make the situation even worse is that our government has invoked a backward kind of logic that argues the best way to deal with spending too much money is to spend even more. The United States is the largest debtor nation in the world. This is not something to be proud of.

The saddest part of this entire episode is that Christians have acted no different from anyone else. We have been like the man in Jesus' parable who tears down his barns to build bigger ones, only to have it go to someone else because God has required of him his life (Luke 12:16-21). We have forgotten that Christians should and must define success very differently. We have not heeded Jesus' words to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The God who behaves both like the cook and the artist "a pinch of spice, a little touch red" expects his people to behave in the same way. For Christians success is not defined by our portfolio nor our title in society, but by our faithfulness to Jesus Christ and his kingdom. In so doing we will bring spice and color to a drab world that defines success by getting just a little more money and a few more things.

More than a few have suggested that the current crisis is the result of the economy "pushing the reset button" in order to begin again and clean out all the nonsense we have created over the years. Perhaps this can be a time for the church to "reset" itself, to once again embody in our way of life the presence of Jesus Christ for the world, to define true success in giving of ourselves instead of getting for ourselves.

Perhaps this is a time when we can once again be that pinch of spice and that splash of red, demonstrating to those around us that the divine way of life is what marks true success in this world.

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Cross-Posted at RedBlueChristian


Anonymous said...

I missed this earlier this week. Thank you for posting these thoughts. Amen.

Allan R. Bevere said...


You are welcome.