Friday, December 21, 2007

Clean, Safe, Money

We’ve all heard the story…

There was a little boy walking along the beach picking up starfish that have become stranded and hurling them back into the surf. After watching this for a while a man approached him and spoke.

“You’re wasting your time. There are loads of starfish that get beached every day and they die. You can’t save them all so what you’re doing just doesn’t matter.”

The little boy picked up another and hurled it with the same determination as all the rest and before stooping to pick up another looked at the man and said, “It matters to that one.”

That story is standard fare for preachers and devotional speakers everywhere. It’s got all the elements one seeks in such settings: ¼ cup of “Hmmm”, ½ cup of guilt, a dash of poignant humor, spin together with the image of a child’s wisdom and pour liberally over an adult’s buzz-killing ignorance.

As cliché as the story is, I’m not sure we get it when it comes to people living a questionable lifestyle (although I admit I am not exactly sure what that means). If we consider the concept at all it is usually what prompts us to reach into our pocket and toss a homeless person a bit of “disposable income” (although I am again unsure what that means).

It is in this way that money becomes the “rubber glove” of our faith. Rubber gloves are not necessarily bad. They are work gloves after all. They accomplish tasks- often tasks that few are willing to do. But in another way, they are a barrier. They help keep the dirt off us. They keep us out of direct contact with the mess- like money. Throw a few dollars at a problem and you can avoid direct contact with the dirt and thereby leave your life basically unaffected and quite possibly never be bothered with details like whatever caused this person to have trouble, what they really needed to get out of it and whether or not they were ever successful in doing so. It’s entirely possible I am really missing the point on this one. On the other hand, what point was Jesus trying to make when a person with an obvious physical malady would approach Him for healing and he would still have the audacity to ask “What do you need?” Maybe our snap judgment of what people need falls short of what we might learn if we actually engaged in a relationship with people outside or comfort zone- where without a barrier things might get a little messy.

That’s probably a more valid point. Trying to really reach out to a person outside our comfort zone will probably just get us involved in a mess that in the grand scheme of things would never make a difference anyway.

Then again, I bet it would make a difference to that one.

And maybe this one.


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