Many of us are too busy or distracted to sustain a life of compassionate engagement. We live lives of hurry, worry and striving, finding little satisfaction in our manic work and recreational activities. Instead of being free to create beauty, nurture relationships and seek the greater good, many of us feel stuck in lives dictated by the need to pay bills or maintain a certain often consumptive standard of living. We can’t have it all—the prevailing level of consumption, a life of deeper meaning and relationships and global equity and sustainability. To realize these good dreams we must adjust our values and practices and seek creative solutions.
Few things in life shape us more than our choices about how we earn, spend, save and invest. Most of us will spend a third of our lives at income-producing jobs. How we choose to manage those earnings largely determines whether we are free to serve the greater good. Yet, rarely have religious communities, in particular, done well at addressing money and work as areas for discipleship—other than the occasional sermon about giving. Perhaps we unconsciously tend to separate money and work from the center of our spiritual lives, making an artificial and unhelpful distinction between what is spiritual and what is temporal, and thereby less important.
By far the biggest advantage I have found in my retirement years is that I now have as much time as I want for compassionate engagement. This third of my life is very fulfilling indeed. We Americans are just too obsessed with financial success. As the quote above says we find little satisfaction in things that we know should be more important in our lives. Our obsession for more and more drives us to idiotic self-centered extremes.
Yeah, we need to pay the bills but are we really spending our money on things that really matter? Are we just too prone to the suggestions of advertisers who convince us to spend so much to bleach out our teeth to an absurdly unnatural color? Do we spend too much time coveting what our neighbor has instead of trying to find what is more important to our lives? How we spend our money says a lot about us as people. All of us should stop on a regular basis and take an inventory of what we are doing with our lives.
Consumption must not take the place of things that should have a deeper meaning in our lives. All we Christians, and for that matter most other religions, tell us to take care of each other. That is what is important. The greater good should outweigh our frivolous desires in life. Our churches should be there to help guide us through this moral entanglement but too many of them, at least according to Mr. Scandrette, are themselves caught in the financial morass. It just may be time to stop and take stock on our lives both spiritual and temporal….