About every half block I shift my duffel bag from right arm to left, from left arm to right. It’s a good trek to the Amtrak station.
With backpack and duffel combined I figure I’m carrying about thirty pounds.
Suddenly I espy a quarter—a quarter!—lying on the sidewalk. I pause. Is it worth it to bend over, with the weight of a backpack, to pick it up?
Yes it is.
I used to stop for pennies. God is keeping up with the times.
Not so, this nation’s Congress, which is crafting a draconian, mean-spirited, and utterly counterintuitive tax reform bill.
Jesus did say, “To those who have much, more will be given; to those who have not, what little they have will be taken away.”
Is this cruel piece of legislation what Jesus had in mind?
I am not for one political party or another. I am for Jesus. He is the standard by which I measure my ways of being in the world. Because of him, I am part of the body politic.
I think about this quarter which I now carry in my pocket. But I’m not the one who needs this token of divine encouragement.
I think of the poor, the unemployed, underemployed, underpaid, the chronically ill, the homeless, the profoundly discouraged, who have no insulation against hard times.
So this quarter in my pocket: What is it to me? I do not need a quarter. It’s a messenger. My work now is to discern the message.
This nation has money enough. I imagine people of great wealth, who, if they lost a quarter—I mean a quarter of their wealth—they would still have plenty to live on.
Money is not the problem. Money greases the wheels of production, the wheels of consumption.
The problem? We suffer an essential poverty of will to mobilize the astonishing generosities within the human spirit. Core generosities, like hospitality which insists that all these others are not “other” but a part of myself, a part of the whole. Generosities like self-sacrifice, compassion, and encouragement on the hard road of life.
Jesus speaks a practical wisdom here: “The measure with which you measure will be used to measure you.” Generous measures toward others yield generous results for us all.
We do not have to settle for human anguish, especially when it is someone else’s. Nor should we settle for greed, especially when it is our own. Every one of us is walking around with an interior wellspring, a vital force strong enough to shake loose and mobilize the vast reserves of money and every other form of wealth that will get the heavy lifting done.
Which brings me back to Jesus. “The poor you will always have with you,” he says cryptically.
Nothing in Jesus’ message suggests that I do not need to care for the plight of the poor because, hey, they’re responsible for making their own way in life.
Everything in Jesus’ message, everything in his understanding of how the reign of God works, suggests that the poor will be drawn to the likes of you and me because this is how Jesus, “the king,” will be known—hungry, homeless, sick, in prison.
So what will I do with this quarter in my pocket? I could toss it in my coin jar when I get home. I could give it to someone looking bereft on the street.
But this would be a cheap way out of more meaningful, costly encounter.
This quarter renews my pledge to call elected representatives to a higher standard of governance for the common good. Postcards, phone calls, bus rides to my state capitol for face-to-face meetings: I have a voice.
This quarter also is my pledge to not abandon the poor. To welcome them as personal invitations, right now, into the hard work of actually being for Jesus.
Mary Sharon Moore writes and speaks nationwide on
the nature of God’s calling in our times.