Keeping Up with the High Cost of Servanthood

Well, I’m strangely conflicted on my reactions to the news that gas will soon be $4 a gallon. My first knee-jerk response –how much is gasoline in other parts of the world, anyway? If I remember correctly, my friends in England say it is usually around $5 a gallon. That’s not figuring the recent craziness that raised the price in the last month or so. Now, I work at a gas station, so I also see people dealing first-hand with the sticker shock, so to speak. The ones who complain the most are those who are commuting daily to Milwaukee. That’s about a 45 minute (on a nice day with no traffic) commute. Not much, if you consider the average Bay area commute is closer to an hour and a half, but still enough to make me realize that I take for granted being able to walk everywhere for granted. Thing is, though, we kind of planned it this way. When we moved here we were a one-car family again, and we had hoped to keep it that way for as long as we could stand it. We do have two vehicles now, but we only drive out of necessity, and our Sheboygan trips (about 20 minutes from here) wind up being about once or twice a week, and then, usually only to Walmart or Target which are on the south side of town, closer to us. $4 a gallon does give one pause to think things over, though -even to us, who don’t do nearly as much car travel as many families.

Then you have “The Economy” as of late. You hear stories like this one that talk about how people are actually having to (gasp) THINK before they go somewhere, and spend less elsewere. What a tragedy that would be! I’m actually hearing stories about how people are planning to buck the system and use their Economic Stimulus checks to do scary and subversive things like paying off debt (or saving the money) rather than dumping it on more stuff they probably don’t need. Don’t they realize that the free money was supposed to be used on that kind of stuff? Where is their patriotic spirit? Come on, join the happy consumer mob and support the economy already! …Well, welcome to the world, America! This is way better than how most of the world lives –at least YOU have running water, food, and, oh, a CAR! Sheesh. Getting some perspective would not be a bad thing, really.

So, part of me thinks that this is a good thing that we’re finally getting the point that we need to cut back. Then, the capitalist part of me thinks, you know, maybe Ron Paul was right. The whole reason this whole mess started was that we (personal we and government we) started basing our economy on money that didn’t exist. Now the bills are coming due, and we’re realizing we’re still as broke as when we started –we just accessorize better. People not spending money (to catch up on paying the bills on stuff they bought with money they didn’t have) and cutting back means less jobs, even more people struggling, and the poor getting the shaft once again while the better-off have to suffer with smaller pizzas. Solutions? Well, status quo would be more government programs spending yet again MORE money we don’t have to fix it. It seems increasingly obvious to me that that isn’t going to work any more. So, you have the economy struggling, which means everyone lives on the same amount or less, only things cost way more than they used to. Proportionally, that’s not probably going to hit someone making a six-figure-or-better income as hard as someone living on minimum wage or, like us, a living wage. But in our capitalistic society, people work to get stuff. They don’t work to eliminate poverty. We just come up with new government programs and then complain about our taxes going up because it means we have to keep working, only now we can’t buy as much stuff. Ideal solution –read Acts. The only real way I can see eliminating poverty is for everyone, regardless of their net worth, to rethink needs vs. what we’ve got. If we have more than we need –great! Let’s use it with God’s direction to help those truly in need. Let’s spur people on to prosper, but not to their own affluence, but to have more to share. Let’s let giving be our true wealth. If we could just get that down, we’d have this poverty thing licked. That kind of thing, however, happens only as a result of the Holy Spirit. Imagine what kind of an impact we’d have if we Christians lived that way. We’d completely reinvent economics. Instead of forcing people at the mission to listen to a sermon before we serve them dinner, we might even be compelled to start getting to know some of our neighbors (or even changing neighborhoods) and giving them the gospel in our own homes as we pass the mashed potatoes.

Thing is, though, however audacious we are to hope, we are too often lacking courage to ACT. Hope is good, but it’s only hope until someone does something. Hope doesn’t heal families, pay the mortgage, or fix our car. Hope starts the process to fix those things, but until we get beyond this whole feel-good media circus that is Barack Obama, we’re not going to get anywhere. When Obama can get people all fired up and emotional about living on what they need and working hard to give the rest away, then I’ll be less cynical. And, no, I haven’t read the book yet. Check the “Books I Need to Read List.” It’s on there, and it’s next in line :). I’m hoping and figuring he’s got a plan somewhere in there to do that sort of thing. If not, people are going to be really upset when he’s been in office six months and they find themselves in the same place they were. People, politicians don’t fix things! THAT’S OUR JOB. That’s the whole POINT of America, isn’t it? Politicians are only supposed to follow our orders and empower us to do good things. When we shuffle fixing poverty off to three-steps-down-buried-in-government, we miss the blessing of fixing things locally, one step at a time.

When Jesus came, everyone figured he’d be a political figure, popular and powerful, and he’d show those nasty Romans a thing or two. Instead, we got a little baby born in a stable to a virgin and a carpenter. He chose for his cabinet twelve misfits who couldn’t even get along half the time. One of them even stole from the group and betrayed him. What kind of leader is that? A servant. Not a rock star, not a phenomenon, not a Caesar, not a Che Guevara. A servant. Once we get that down, maybe we can save America. Oh, yeah –that’s the point I was trying to get to. We can’t save America, only God can. God save America.