…I have learned, in whatever situation I find myself, to be self-sufficient. Philippians 4:11
The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones…Luke 16:10
We all want an easy life – a life without pain or even discomfort. The stories we tell each other around the water cooler (are there still water coolers?) are often filled with the disappointments, setbacks, and challenges of our daily lives. Who hasn’t told a story to friends that includes the phrase, “But wait, it gets worse!” We share these stories with each other, bonding over our common misery that seems to be the lot of those who walk this Earth. As it says in the book of Job, “…mankind is born for trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.”
However, we tend to interpret God’s favor as being upon us when life is easy and God withholding His favor when times are hard. Or we see the hard times as a test to grind through. We can sometimes feel that if we just grit our teeth and power on through, God will like us again and things will get easier.
In the readings today there seems to be another way put forth, the Way of Christ. St. Paul speaks of having endured privations and abundance, fat times and lean times. He shares his thoughts on getting through it all: “I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I have the strength for everything through Him who empowers me.” It is interesting that it is a secret for living both in abundance and need, not just need. By living in Christ, abundance and need seem to become two sides of one coin. Both are just circumstances of life. It is often said that pain is inevitable; suffering is not. Suffering can arise when we fall into the “Why me?” trap. St. Paul teaches that abundance and need follow one another. He shows us that with Christ we can endure the need and remember to show gratitude in abundance.
In the gospel, Jesus says we are to make friends with and be trustworthy with dishonest wealth (mammon). And yet later he says we cannot serve both mammon and God. This calls to mind the saying from Matthew, “Resist not evil.” This teaching calls on a strength that God shares with us. This strength is to hold true to serving God by not resorting to violence against the evil, dishonesty, and corruption we see around us. At the same time, we are called to act with integrity with the world. Dishonesty from another does not justify our acting dishonest ourselves. We are called by our conversion to treat all as brothers and sisters.
My prayer for myself today is that I find the strength of Christ within me to serve God as I make my way through this less-than-perfect world.
Talib Huff volunteers and works at Christ the King Retreat Center in Citrus Heights. You can reach him at [email protected]