Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Advent XVIII

Bewildered people stand before perplexing truth and say, "This can't be true."  Surely, this must have been the mindset of those who stood out there on the edge of the wilderness listening to John the Baptist as he gave one illustration after another about the meaning of "bearing fruits of repentance."  (Luke 3:8)  But, then what he said was not just bewildering for those who listened.  It remains the same for us today.
For example, we still struggle with generosity to the poor.  We are quite willing to donate old clothes to thrift stores, but none of our donations really deplete our clothes closets.  We often buy a new coat and give the old one away, but when was the last time, we bought a new coat and gave it away, keeping the old one for ourselves?  Actually, it is never a matter of having two coats.  Most us could give one to the needy and have not one but several left in the closet.  To stand before a Biblical call to give so much of what we have to those who have nothing, or at least very little, causes us to think that John the Baptist and Jesus surely must have been speaking metaphorically and not literally.  We are somewhat bewildered by this concept of sacrificial generosity when we practice a generosity that protects our comfort and our logical pragmatic self-seeking sensibilities.
Of course, the core issue is not generosity to the poor, but trust in God.  One of the primary reasons we cannot give sacrificially is that we do not trust God to provide our needs.  We talk about God as the One who provides our needs, but we all know that we can really only depend upon ourselves to provide.  Trusting in God to provide is a nice Biblical concept, but it really does mean turning from a way of life where self is at the center to a way of life where God is at the center.  Ah, but then, John's message was about repentance, was it not?

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