Budget battle’s spiritual lessons

Tuesday, Congress and the White House agreed somehow to the next fiscal year’s federal budget. At its essence, it — … Continued

Tuesday, Congress and the White House agreed somehow to the next fiscal year’s federal budget. At its essence, it — like all budgets — is a spiritual document.

Skeptical? Consider these words: Save, Redeem, Worth, Value, Trust, Bond, and Debt.

Economic? Certainly. Spiritual? You bet!

Much interest has been placed rightfully not only on the size of our federal spiritual document, but on how that budget is distributed. On how money serves people, and not vice versa.

So it goes for our congregation. While much attention is placed here on how much we produce in an annual pledge drive, I urge our body to place as much interest in how we apportion it — and what that means about our progressive identity toward promoting the common good.

In fact, our church’s faith teaches that distribution — not production — is our primary response to our God. Production is God’s business — and God’s alone. The church simply inspires the faithful to return to God a portion of the produce that has been so abundantly given us.

Our scriptures amply testify to the abundance of God; in fact, it is both assumed and celebrated. Trouble is, due to our fear of scarcity (“There’s just not enough to go around!”), the Greed Motto (“growth economy”) and Greed Prayer (“bless me with riches!”) gain great popularity in our functionally agnostic world. And so, as some gather riches in their storehouses and others go without even storehouses, what we fear becomes what we face: abundance for some, scarcity for many. And so, as economist Joseph Stiglitz points out, in terms of income equality, America is roughly commensurate with Russia and Iran. People of faith: This is not a good thing.

Because our fear of scarcity trumps our trust in God’s abundance, we place an undue emphasis on securing our goods militarily. It’s a humbling fact: Per the latest federal budget, we who represent less than 5 percent of the world’s population continue to expend more annually than roughly the next two dozen countries combined. That’s right: the next two dozen countries combined. That’s like emphasizing in our church budget our need for stronger security systems rather than feeding the poor and the poor in spirit!

Challenged to be distributively faithful and knowing The Eternal provides when we are, people of faith in America should ask ourselves: How do we wish to live?

Scriptures of all major faiths I know do not emphasize “Be secure!” They emphasize, “Fear not!” Perhaps so should we.

Reverend Charles Booker-Hirsch is the pastor at Bethesda (Maryland) Presbyterian Church.

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