The Poverty of Wealth
Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks. Luke 10:38-40a
In his book Here and Now, Henri Nouwen writes:
“It always strikes me that rich people have much money, while poor people have much time. And when there is much time life can be celebrated. There is no reason to romanticize poverty, but when I see the fears and anxieties of many who have all the goods the world has to offer, I can understand Jesus’ words: “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Money and success are not the problem; the problem is the absence of free, open time when God can be encountered in the present and life can be lifted up in its simple beauty and goodness.”
I read this passage last week while I was on a mission trip to Honduras. I am convinced the juxtaposition of the reading and the trip was divinely arranged.
While in Honduras, I expected to meet a suffering mass of people living in poverty. What I found was happy, joyful people – many living in poverty – but with time to spend with others: Time to sing, time to worship, and time to enjoy life. It hit me that while many Honduran people live in material poverty, many of us in the United States – myself included – live in spiritual poverty. The people of Honduras lack many of the material benefits we have in abundance, like clean drinking water and adequate sewage treatment. Because of the time-sucking obligations of our material abundance, however, we have little time left for others or life’s simple pleasures. The two worship services I attended in Honduras (at two different churches) both exceeded two hours in length, not including fellowship time before and after. At my church, people get antsy when a worship service approaches one hour. We have things to do and possessions to care for – yards to mow, sports teams to follow, children’s activities to attend, and housework to be done. We are busy, busy people and must actually schedule visits to see friends and family.
I am reminded of the story of Mary and Martha in the Gospel of Luke. Martha is so busy preparing for Jesus’ visit that she misses the blessing of the actual visit. Mary leaves the housework alone and sits at Jesus’ feet to experience the blessing of his fellowship. Do not get me wrong – cooking, cleaning, dusting, mowing, and painting are all important activities, especially when there is an abundance to be cooked, cleaned, dusted, mowed, and painted. The contrast is stark, however, between seeking a blessing from our “stuff” and being blessed by the presence of others. I think there is need to find a balance. We can help the Hondurans with some basic needs. They can help us learn to live with less, freeing up time for relationships with each other and with our God.
Come home to church this Sunday. Be a blessing to another and be blessed.