After my last blog post on the Great Reset, a reader asked an important question, and instead of responding only to her, I will share my response with everyone. This is what she wrote, she begins by quoting the end of my blog post:
“‘If we are comfortable in the world then an economic reset or political upheaval will evoke fear and anger… But if this world is not our home. If we are but salt and light, sojourners in a strange land, then we will adjust. We will find a way. We will carry on, looking for a City whose foundations and builder is God.’
“I think to a certain extent we are all comfortable in the world. Our daily life is full of worldly tasks and concerns: work, finances, extracurricular activities, etc. Not that there is anything wrong with these tasks, but they do redirect the mind to our current life and the world cannot help but feel like home. We find comfort in the familiar and in the hope that our children have a future ahead of them. So how do we find a balance? How do we plan and live a life in the world without getting attached to the comfort that comes with this?”
I think there are three things we can do to help us live as sojourners in this world. The first is to be thankful. This may sound like such a small thing, but actually it is huge. When we are always thankful, we are remembering that the world and the world’s system does not owe us. We are remembering that it is both God’s mercy and judgment that there is food on the table, that our children are relatively healthy, that we have a job, a home, or friends. None of these are guaranteed, and we will give an account to God for what we did or didn’t do with His blessings.
When we forget to be thankful, we begin to think that it is the world and our place in the world that has brought about the relatively comfortable life we are experiencing. We begin to think that working for and fighting for a system, a government, a program is how we will make the world a better place or how we will keep the world from devolving into a worse place. When we forget to give thanks to God, God begins to feel distant to us; we start to think that maybe God doesn’t even care, that God doesn’t really matter that much.
But, when we are constantly giving thanks, for both small and big things, even for the things and experiences that challenge us, then God feels very near. When we are thanking God for our daily blessings, for food, for shelter, for a warm coat on a cold day, for the basic health and intelligence of our children, then we remember that it is a gift and that it could be very different. That I have a job in a stable economy is a gift, it is guaranteed to no one. That I have a roof over my head is a gift, many do not. That my children have a chance to lead a healthy life, making mistakes for sure, but also learning from them, this is a gift from God, not guaranteed; for many parents struggle with beloved children who are not healthy in both mind and body.
Continual thankfulness in our hearts makes possible the second thing we can do to live as sojourners in this world. When I am thankful for my warm coat, I realize that there are people without warm clothes. When I am thankful for my home, I realize that there are homeless nearby living in a car, or a hovel, or in a temporary shelter. When I am thankful, the Gospel commands to pray, to control my consumption (fast) and to show mercy to others become much more than religious obligations, they become life for us.
Living the Gospel commands, even in some very small ways, helps us remember that this world is not our home. And living the Gospel commands is not simply a matter of deciding to do so. Anyone who has tried can tell you that it takes genuine Grace, genuine help from God to love someone who is not very lovable. And, while opportunities to show mercy abound, it is the very immensity of the need that freezes us in place. Anything we do seems so little, but to give everything would still not be enough and would only put us in the same place of need as those we want to help. So, how do we love and show mercy? How do we find a way to live the Gospel commands in a way that is real, but does not overwhelm us?
The Church has taught us that the place to begin is with a token, 10%. You see, showing mercy is not about fixing people’s lives. Showing mercy is about sharing people’s suffering. This is why tithing is so important. When you tithe you feel a little pain, a pinch. And that pain keeps us aware of the pain of the world, the pain that Christ feels for the world. Tithing helps us remember that this world is not our home. And tithing isn’t just about money. We can tithe time and work. The important thing is to start giving, giving enough so that it hurts a bit, but not so much that it overwhelms us. This will remind us again and again that only God saves; we can only love, a little.
The final thing that we have to keep in mind is that there is no balance. “Balance” is much too self conscious. How would we even know what is more or less important, what has more or less weight? Balance assumes that there is some ideal correct way to live in this world. But each person and each context of life in this world is so different that every person continually has to struggle to find his or her way. Rather than looking for an elusive balance, I think a more helpful way to live as a sojourner in this world is to avoid extremes. That is, I may never find real balance in life, but I can avoid extremes, extremes to the left or to the right. Even the scripture tells us that we can be too righteous (Ecclesiastes 7:16). And I think we all know that we can be too worldly.
In the end, we are never really at home in this world. We are constantly making mistakes. We are constantly off balance. We get too caught up in the world, and we repent. We fall down and get up again. We fall down and get up again. We fall down and get up again. This is the Christian life in this world, which is why we are looking for a City whose foundations and builder is God.