I am an American. I believe in freedom and independence. In fact, I have a particular talent for independence. I am a first born. I was raised with a strong work ethic and a drive to achieve. And I am an Individualist (Enneagram type 4).
Independence has proved costly to me. I have held friends at a distance, made foolhardy decisions in the absence of counsel, and tried to make salvation something I achieved on my own. God is dismantling my independence. One brick at a time. And I reap the benefits of that daily in deep friendships, sage advice, and a whole family moving me toward God.
And now He is rankling me in a new area. While Mike and I have enjoyed giving "generously" of the kind bounty God has shared with us, I was recently discomfitted by a passage in Thomas Merton's Seeds of Contemplation. I read it in the glow of participating financially in the adoptions of good friends...feeling a part of the miracle God is working in their lives. I thought of it a couple of days ago as a friend talked about the fact that a need for any of us is an opportunity for all of us. And I wonder what it would look like to live with completely open hands. What would it cost? To be the KINGDOM.......as in heaven, so on earth.
I share the passage here with you because it will take all of us. Don't read it if you want to live a safe life. It will ask a lot of you. I have read it already. It's too late for me.
A man cannot be a perfect Christian--that is, a saint--unless he is also a communist. This means that he must either absolutely give up all right to possess anything at all, or else only use what he himself needs, of the goods that belong to him, and administer the rest for other men and for the poor...
...If Christians had lived up to the Church's teaching about property and poverty there would never have been any occasion for the spurious communism of the Marxists and all the rest--whose communism starts out by denying other men the right to own property.
There is only one true doctrine about property rights, and that is taught by [Church] tradition. Those rights exist and cannot be denied, but they imply an obligation which, if it were put into practice without hypocrisy, self-deception and subterfuge, would mean that most Christians would be living with something like the communism of the first Apostles:
"For neither was there any one needy among them. For as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the price of the things they sold, and laid it down before the feet of the Apostles. And distribution was made to everyone according as he had need." (Acts 4:34)
No one denied these men the right to own land, or to keep what they owned, or to sell it and give away their money. Yet that right implied an obligation to satisfy the needs of others as well as their own, and brought with it the privelege of doing so in a manner that was beyond the strict letter of any law and which could go as far as a charity which was heroic.
If you have money, consider that perhaps the only reason God allowed it to fall into your hands was in order that you might find joy and perfection by giving it all away.
It is easy enough to tell the poor to accept their poverty as God's will when you yourself have warm clothes and plenty of food and medical care and a roof over your head and no worry about the rent. But if you want them to believe you--try to share some of their poverty and see if you can accept it as God's will yourself!