Friday, September 21, 2007

Autumn Appraisal: More Conspicuous Consumption

Judgment is a difficult word to understand for many Christians because it operates on so many different levels. There’s the capital J-Judgment that we profess as Christians in the Apostle’s Creed, “He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, whence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.” Then there’s the little j-judgment that Jesus talks about in Matthew 7.
One of my personal favorites, Graham Cooke, has a story he tells about a conversation between a Catholic priest and a church member. While the church member talked, the priest faced him, bent over at the waist and bobbed side to side. The church member was baffled but in fact the priest was “dodging the plank”. A strange interaction, but it got the message home. Don’t judge. That’s why it’s so difficult to say someone is consuming conspicuously. Let me back that statement out.
Mark posted over a week ago about The Man of Steel, not Clark Kent but Andrew Carnegie. He had a 64 room house and threw lavish parties, but he was perhaps the greatest purveyor of knowledge in the world (He set up libraries all over the world with his donations).

In economics most people would say that Carnegie’s colossal donations were very generous and that what he did was a great service to the world. We measure someone’s generosity by how much they give but that is not the measure that Jesus uses to commend someone’s generosity and sacrifice.

Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” he said, “This poor widow has put in more than all the others.” (Luke 21:1-3)

So, there is a different standard as a Christian. This seems to be the case more often than not. Admittedly to the point that I’ve thought it might just be easier to be Jewish. It’s not the amount you give but what you have left, and only if you give in love (for more on that see my earlier post Summer Lovin’).

All that being said the question becomes whether I consider Carnegie’s gift to be generous. I believe he did a great service to the world. It looks generous to me even if his house was huge. There are two things I can write here beyond a doubt. Carnegie’s actions fell short of perfection. I also know something else Jesus mentions before he gives the parable of the plank, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” That’s with a capital J.

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