Anthropomorphosis, Part 3

Anthropomorphosis, Part 3

Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourself that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Luke 12:32-34

The anthropomorphosis of what it means to follow Jesus and honor Christ has led to millennia of misunderstandings, persecutions, and narcissistic actions, all under the guise of following the “will of God.” When we understand and interpret a benevolent God in human terms, we create a God that always acts in what we believe to be the best human interests. Unfortunately, we seldom consider what is best for humanity as a whole. Instead, we interpret the nature of God in scripture according to what we believe is best for us and those like us. We take a narrow, exclusive, and self-serving view of what is good and twist scripture to support it. This form of churchianity is what has become the modern-day church, at least the caricature of the modern-day church, and masses of people are leaving or shunning it as they see through its faux-universalist facade. We cannot understand what is best for us without first understanding what is best for everyone and everything. And we cannot understand what is best for us by defining us as “me and those who think like me.”

Jesus paints a descriptive picture of the kingdom of God in his Sermon on the Mount.[1] Meekness, non-violence, humility, service to others, inclusion of the outcasts, feeding the hungry, healing the sick – these are the human traits of one acting in the will of God. They are not, however, traits we naturally elevate and strive to emulate as human beings. For example, there is nothing in Jesus’ teachings that encourages the accumulation of wealth beyond anything more than meeting the needs of the day. (I acknowledge my place among the hypocrites who call themselves Christian while ignoring the teachings that threaten our comfortable lifestyles.) The foundation of the gospel, reflected in every non-human part of creation, is trusting that God will provide for our needs. Whenever we hoard beyond today’s needs we either make something unavailable to someone else who needs it, or we take beyond what the earth can sustainably provide. Let’s face it, there is no bank account large enough, no insurance policy comprehensive enough, and no house strong enough to withstand every tragedy that can happen in life on earth. We strive mightily to secure our lives, but it is a fruitless endeavor because we have anthropomorphized what it means to be secure. Alas, there is no security in our stuff.

True security is described in the parts of the gospel we usually ignore or twist into something they are not. In Luke, Jesus tells us it is God’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom,[2] which sounds exciting and lavish. But then Jesus describes the path to the kingdom: “Sell your possessions and give (to the needy).” The command is repeated elsewhere in the gospels, as in Matthew 19:21: “…go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven…” Suddenly, the kingdom of heaven does not sound so exciting and lavish – it sounds frightening and foolish. Surely Jesus must have meant something or someone else. After all, he was from another time and place. And yet, according to the Bible, this was how Jesus lived and how he instructed his disciples to live. He tells them in Mark 6:8: “…take nothing for (your) journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money…” What could this possibly mean for us today?

My sense of meaning regarding these teachings has to do with the puzzling-to-human-understanding nature of the way God provides for our needs. God does not give so I can hoard beyond my need. When God gives in excess it is so I can pass along whatever is beyond my need to someone else who is in need. God’s gifts are not meant to stick; God’s gifts are meant to flow. And they cannot flow, passing from one person to another, if they are not freely received and freely given. God’s provision is like a river, providing water and sustenance to all who come to its shore. In our fear that the river may dry up one day, we build dams, restricting or preventing the flow for those downstream. When we restrict God’s provision we find ourselves surrounded by masses of homeless, hungry, sick, and isolated souls in need of mercy – the result of anthropomorphizing God’s generous provision and not trusting God to provide in the future.

This is the 52nd in the series of Life Notes titled Churchianity vs Christianity. I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at ghildenbrand@sunflower.com, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can also sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning and browse the archives of my Life Notes, Podcasts, music, books, and other musings.


[1] Matthew, chapters 5-7

[2] Luke 12:32

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