I don't know if I've had another bout with depression recently or what, but I've been feeling convicted, to say the least. I can't tell if I have chronic minor depression, or anxiety, or does everyone who studies theology go thru these kinds of emotional upheavals? (Caedmon?) I'm a bit scared of the grand ideas swimming (and colliding) around in my head - the nature of sin, soteriology, theodicy, and the like. Here's one of the things really bugging me:
If God is just (He is), and God has said that the rich will [hardly|barely|not] enter the Kingdom (He has), and America is full of the richest people the world has ever seen (it is), what hope do we have?
Now I know valid "pro-rich" analyses in relation to the passage. But I still can't help "feeling" (Stupid feelings. If men knew how much emotion they would start to experience after fatherhood, there would be no babies.) conviction that Americans, and especially those of us in the top 10% of wage earners ... well, I can't even describe the feeling. Guilt? Condemnation? Reprehension? There's just something unsettling about Jesus words spoken to a "rich man" who would be extremely poor by modern America's standards.
This morning I was reading my New Testament textbook. (The class is over, but I didn't get to read it all during class - had to keep jumping around to finish my homework on different books.) Johnson was discussing the prophetic motif of Luke's Gospel - demonstrating how the Sermon on the Plain fulfills the programmatic prophecy of the Magnificat. The combination of the woes for those who are rich - who "have their consolation now" as fulfillment of Mary's prophecy of the rich "sent away empty" really struck this cord with me. Do I have consolation in this world? I have a (luxurious) house, plenty of (extravagant) food, a full wardrobe of (geeky) clothes, and a plethora of luxuries and entertainments to pass my time.
Now here comes a point ...
Despite (probably because of?) all that, the prospect of being "sent away empty" is actually a relief to me. It's like one of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes - "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." Even with all my "stuff" I desire something more - something else. So when I read that I could be "sent away empty", I'm starting to understand that for those of us who are rich in this world, that statement is really a statement of graceful relief - of salvation, not condemnation. I hope and pray I stay willing to lose this all for the something more and else that I really want.
I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.
Or am I just rationalizing away the guilt of my own extravagance?