Poverty and faith the size of a mustard seed

The Feast Day of Lillian Trasher

Luke 17:1-6

Thinking about faith the size of a mustard seed makes me ponder. On what do I rely first, before anything else in my life? Is it God, or is it my own ingenuity?

I muse about this as I consider how much I am willing to do toward the Christian mandate of ending poverty in this country and abroad. As Richard Rohr says, to end poverty we have to be willing to give something up. It ought to be something big. Am I willing to do this – first and before other considerations?

There are many things we can give up. Maybe we need to trim our financial cushions a bit and give away more of our money. Maybe what we need to do is move into a smaller house, using fewer resources so more is available to others. Perhaps it’s the extra car that needs to go, with its use of gasoline, a limited resource. After all, using our community mass transit systems helps keep them viable so that people who can’t afford vehicles can get to work.

Here’s a radical idea, one that is taking hold more and more as our collective consciousness evolves. Maybe we need to both offer to others and accept ourselves smaller salaries – so that other people can make a viable wage. Maybe we could offer greater numbers of important services to people on a sliding fee basis – one that actually slides far enough to make a real difference. Maybe we will find other ways than money to tell our CEO’s that they are valuable.

We could even choose to live in intentional community with others who have little, easing the burden of daily expenses through sharing them. Sometimes holding things in community helps. If a neighborhood buys a chainsaw, no one household has to foot the cost and everybody can use it, everybody benefits. The same is true with the community car, the community garden, community housing units or storage units and even the power source, like a windmill, that can be shared to reduce individual fuel costs.

Often I want to clutch my possessions to me fiercely. Sometimes this is just the natural first response of an eldest child who had to learn to share with younger siblings. When that is the case I can take a deep breath, pray, and move into a greater generosity. Other times, though, I want to hang on tight because I am trusting myself more than I trust God. I amassed these things of mine, I tell myself, and it’s important that I keep them. That is the responsible thing to do. Where will I ever get such things again? It is responsible to make as much money as we can, isn’t it? It is responsible to build up savings and retirement funds. It is responsible to be secure before we share.

But where is God in that scenario? Do we get comfortable financially first and then turn to God, asking only when we have our nest egg in place what can we do to alleviate the relentless hunger and cold of our less fortunate neighbors? Who are we really relying on then?

Radical generosity demands a different answer. Faith the size of a mustard seed, Jesus tells us, can turn the whole world upside down. Trusting in God means living a risky life – a life without safety nets. Perhaps it is fair to say that in all circumstances, no matter what they are, I need to take a deep breath, pray, and move into a greater generosity.

Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries With others she manages a website for the Diocese of Colorado highlighting congregations’ creative ministries: Fresh Expressions Colorado

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