Cashing Out

Wednesday, October 2, 2013 — Week of Proper 21, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 101, 109:1-4(5-19)20-30 (morning) // 119:121-144 (evening)

2 Kings 18:9-25

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Matthew 7:13-21

Almost exactly eight years ago, someone broke into my apartment and stole my computer, my DVD’s, and some jewelry. My computer was new, but I owned very few DVD’s (just workout-at-home videos!), and I’m not exactly a jewelry person. However, I was very sad about losing a few precious pieces: a bracelet that was a gift from my grandmother, an amber necklace that a friend had sent all the way to Nepal when I was very far from my loved ones, and the silver St. Cecilia cross necklace that I received when I graduated from my cathedral choir.

I will never forget the feeling of knowing that, while these items were so deeply precious to me, someone else was just reducing them to their cash value. What price could a thief get for a silver cross and an amber necklace? Much, much less than they were worth to me.

In today’s first reading, King Hezekiah cashes out the most precious resource in his kingdom. In the face of a siege and possible deportation, he strips the gold from the doors and doorposts of the temple and tries to pay off King Sennacherib of Assyria. To the people of Judah, the temple gold represents their trust in a steadfast God. To Sennacherib, the temple gold is nothing but a cash pay-off that may or may not buy a lasting peace.

What is so precious to you that the world of theft, violence, and domination cannot possibly value it as deeply as you do? Whether it is time with friends and family, special heirlooms or mementos, or your relationship with the divine, we’re always under pressure to exchange these for much less than they are worth. Unlike Hezekiah, we should try not to cash out what we value most.

We never know when our most precious gifts are all that we’ll have to rely on. Sennacherib sends a message to Hezekiah, taunting him for having given this temple gold away, leaving him with nothing of real value: “[I]f you say to me, ‘We rely on the Lord our God,’ is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed . . . ?'”

Under enormous pressure, Hezekiah stripped his community of the resource that they needed most: a precious relationship with God. Today, let’s join in the struggle to resist exchanging our most precious gifts for their poor cash equivalents.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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