The growing gap between rich and poor in this country is the result of an almost bankrupt spirituality.
Most church people will disagree with me. After all, Christian book sales continue to set records. Crowds pack our mega-churches and our arenas to hear sermons or attend spiritual improvement seminars. More people than ever claim to believe in God and care about things of the spirit.
But, stop and listen carefully.
Almost no voice is heard today speaking out on behalf of the poor, the outcast and the oppressed.
Hardly a whisper is heard about the celebration of materialism in the face of gripping poverty.
As a matter of fact, much popular theology buries the poor in explanations focusing on individual responsibility and the power of God to truly bless the faithful or God's people. A longstanding American notion that God's election is proved up by one's financial status is alive and well. . . big time!
Sadly, we have lost our way. It really is just that simple.
I'm convinced America's faithful need a new prayer. A prayer that could provide the tools and the paradigm for the radical renovation of our spirituality.
I find just such a prayer in the ancient text of the Hebrew bible--hear the word of the Lord found in Proverbs 30:7-9:
"Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die:
1) Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
2) Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?'
Or, I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God."
The prayer is simple. So straightforward is its sentiment that it is downright disarming.
Two things are needed.
First, help us tell the truth, Lord. Telling the truth assumes that we will face it, admit it and embrace it in all circumstances. Truth-telling would help us when it comes to urban issues and challenges, I can tell you that. Few want to hear or face the truth about our cities.
Second, give us only what we need for the day. Deliver us from wealth on the one hand and poverty on the other. Both can be deadly to the spirit.
Protection from riches opens a door to rich dependence on our Higher Power and and escape from counting only on our own abilities or strength. Protection from riches means that I will not forget the source of my true wealth as I deal with life and my fellows.
Protection from poverty closes a door leading to desperation and disgrace. I will not shame my creator if I can just have the bread I need for today. No more, no less.
Try this on the average American church today. Prepare for strange looks. Get ready to hear the simple truth explained away, as actions and lifestyles are rationalized.
I must confess, as I write, something inside cringes. I am so far from this spirituality of the simple and the adequate.
But, liberating truth resides in this short wisdom text.
It reminds me of something someone else once said.
Can you hear it?
"Give us this day our daily bread."
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