The lamp of the body is the eye.
If your eye is Sound,
Your whole body will be filled with Light;
But if your eye is Bad,
Your whole body will be in Darkness.
And if the Light in you is Darkness,
How great will the Darkness be.
(Matthew 6:22-23, NAB)
Light and darkness.
Over and over, I return to Psalm 139:12 (“Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day”) and John 1:5 (“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”). I am comforted by these verses. Encouraged. And reminded that I am called to be a beacon of light.
I have also come to understand why I was traumatized by the results of the election. Yes, part of it was the way it acted as a trigger to a past event. But, part of it has to do with core values, with the lamp of my body, with the way I see things.
To me, money is a tool, no more and no less. I can use knitting needles and a yarn to make a sweater, or I can use money to buy a sweater; either way, I have a sweater. Because money has no value for me beyond its use — I don’t measure my worth by my income, I don’t feel a burning need to accumulate wealth, I don’t even understand the decisions of those who have a dollars and cents bottom line — greed is incomprehensible to me.
When the Lord gave the Israelites manna in the desert, he said to them, “Gather it that everyone has enough to eat” (Exodus 16:16) — everyone. In other words, take only what you need. In this world, people need different things. I, for example, need to have tools for writing and creative expression; only another artist would need paint, brushes and easel in the same way that I do. I’m so fearful of not having a journal with which to untangle my thoughts and feelings, I have a shelf of blank books, and pens sitting in jars and cups all over my apartment. I may, in fact, have more pens and pencils in one room than most people have in their entire houses. I need to write; I find my way to the truth by writing. But, I have no need for a huge flat-screen TV — and so I have a smaller second-hand set which I use to watch DVDs.
Taking only what you need isn’t about taking exactly what others have; it’s about knowing what you need and being satisfied with having that need fulfilled. The Israelites were also told not take more than they needed, but “some kept a part of it over until the following morning; it became wormy and rotten” (Exodus 16:20). I strongly suspect, since God does tend to be fairly consistent about some things, that’s what happens to those whose actions are motivated by greed. Inside, they become rotten.
(Please note: I said those whose ACTIONS ARE MOTIVATED BY GREED. I’m not talking about wealth; I’m talking about actions and motivations. Wealth is a gift, like other gifts, and can be used for the common good in ways too myriad to delineate here. Wealth, in and of itself, is entirely separate and different from actions that are motivated by greed.)
My suspicions are based on the way Jesus reiterated this idea in his ministry. He taught his disciples to pray for “daily bread” (Matthew 6:11); to trust in God’s providential care (Matthew 6:25-34). He cautioned them against becoming obsessed with accumulating wealth, saying, “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Matthew 6:21). I suspect that is why he said, after the rich young man went away sad, “it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23). I suspect Jesus was saying, in effect, wealth can become a god when your identity is tied to taking more than you need.
So what matters to me if money doesn’t? People matter; relationships matter; human dignity matters. I firmly believe that you should treat all people with respect whether you like them or not. Period. Non-negotiable.
Just as greed is beyond my comprehension, racism and bigotry and misogyny and all of those other attitudes and behaviors that deny the dignity of each human being are beyond my comprehension. For me, that is a darkness which must be resisted at all costs. For me, that is the face of evil. That is why the election results have been so traumatizing; for me, a great cloud of darkness has spread across the land.
Am I a prophet? Will time show that my fears were warranted? Or am I wearing the blinders of political bias?
Time will tell; time always tells the story and reveals the truth. As this story unfolds, I ask God for a sound eye, so that my body may be filled with light, and I ask for the grace to to be a beacon of light, living my core values regardless of what the future holds. As this story unfolds, I ask God for the grace to trust him not only with each day, but also with the big picture.
As this story unfold, I also ask for the grace to remember each and every day that God is good.