As a kid, I was horrified to learn that just because I was born in the USA, I was richer than 90% of the rest of the world. Jesus said it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it was for a rich kid to pass through the gates of heaven. I forgot about that fear in adulthood, until I heard a joke that went something like this:
On a tropical island, two hammocks hang on either side of a fence. A native lies in the hammock on the public beach, with a fishing pole stuck in the sand. His rest is disturbed by curses from a harried executive, who thumbs through emails from the hammock on the resort side of the fence.
“Enjoy some peace, man. Why do you torture yourself, so?”
“This is the price I pay for success. You wouldn’t understand.”
“What will this pricy success do for you?”
“Once I succeed, I will want for nothing. Then I’ll be able to retire to a tropical island like this, where I can enjoy an uncomplicated life.”
“Why don’t you want for nothing, today, and live a life of joy?”
This joke made me wonder if finding the proper balance between want and joy wasn’t at the heart of my camel conundrum. Was it wrong to want more for my family than a thatched-roof hut with a dirt floor? Was I missing out on God’s joy when I risked coronaries on working vacations? Searching for balance, I decided I wanted too much if I couldn’t return a tithe* to God from the blessings I received. Maybe I was missing out if I couldn’t find a way to participate in a church to spread the joy of God’s word.
*Like many Lutherans, I have a personal definition of tithe. Pray for me (and my camel) that I move closer to the biblical definition as TLLC finishes off 2013, and the new stewardship campaign kicks off for 2014.