Last week, I visited a Midwestern farming community, where I stayed at a cheap motel.
When you think of cheap motels, do you think of prosperity or abundance?
For some of you, cheap and abundance might not seem to go together.
I could have used a different word to appeal to the ego.
“Inexpensive” and “budget friendly” invoke less of fears of a seedy roach-infested dwelling within a red-light district.
These terms retain a sense of worth and dignity, I suppose, but cheap challenges us to revisit our ideas of worth and spirituality.
Days twenty-nine through thirty-five provided an opportunity for me to consider a teachings on prosperity, abundance, and spirituality. Last week invited me to consider another gospel- a cheap motel prosperity gospel.
Extremes of Abundance
As I sat on the stark white bedding in my room, I reflected on the numerous families at the motel, traveling for some youth sporting event. I smiled thinking about the children who threw the football to each other in the hallway, until a parent showed up and stopped the antics, probably made lots of memories of getting into shenanigans on this trip.
I felt grateful for the budget-friendly and family-friendly, motels as a stop-over for a rambunctious crew of young athletes.
The children could happily live as children and families got to be families enjoying themselves.
Is the parent who can afford to book presidential suites for the team at a luxury hotel a better parent? Are the children who are born into material privilege automatically and inherently worth more than the children staying at the cheap motel?
Most people would think these are ridiculous questions with obvious answers. However, if we look more closely at what many of us say and support, more of us would pause before dismissing this inquiry.
Why would anyone say to children that because they did not go skiing in Aspen that they are unimportant?
But that is what we do when we allow material things to puff us up in pride. We think and act these beliefs in adulthood and encourage it with our youth.
However, we, our very beings, are priceless. Yet, in the burgeoning celebratory self-indulgent and narcissistic selfie culture, we have increasingly attached human worth with material things.
It amazes me how people will quote Mother Teresa and Gandhi, and then turn their noses up at people who are not within the top one percent income bracket. True story.
I know people who act scared to spend extensive time with people with less income because they fear poverty will rub off on them, interrupting their flow of abundance.
It seems to me that the real poverty lies in such a mindset.
Pleasing God and Material Wealth
During my stay, I thought about how the Church and other spiritual paths have gone to extremes when it comes to teachings on abundance. How some of us confuse material things with spirituality can be unhealthy and deeply problematic.
On the one hand, we have Church leaders who teach that material wealth is evidence of being blessed and fruit of the spirit in your life. On the other hand we have Church leaders who demonize people with material wealth, with the notion that it is impossible for them to make it to heaven.
The fruit of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness, self-control, goodness, faithfulness, and patience, can be evident in our lives regardless of our financial standing.
Thus, you can cultivate the fruit in your life with or without cultivating material wealth.
Because it is more common to celebrate social status, we can quickly become seduced into believing the pride of life is synonymous with living a blessed life.
I hear it in people’s responses when overlooking people’s, particularly celebrities, misgivings in comments like, “At least she is getting paid,” or “They are making money.”
It is as if money, not love covers a multitude of sins.
Listen, you do not have to be or do good to acquire material wealth in this world. Hello, Slavery.
Material wealth is neither the evidence or result of blessed living.
I am not advocating for a vow of poverty, or that money is not essential. Again, these extremes miss the point.
What Truly Matters
Given that we have established that the “wicked” and “righteous” can both make boatloads of money in this world, I want to get to the heart of something much more significant: Our Who.
That is, the who of who we are.
Who we really genuinely are matters most.
When the core of who you are seeks to thrive from the fruit of the Spirit, you will less likely allow deceitful riches corrupt you. On the other hand, if the who of you attaches the worth of self and others to material belongings, you will more easily be corrupted by riches.
If you have gifts, put them to use, and I pray you generate much material wealth from your efforts. I pray that you do so with humility and a heart to do good in the world with what you have acquired. I pray that you live teachable. I hope that you continue to seek to learn from others from different walks of life.
In other words, focus on being the kinds of people who can have possessions without letting them possess you.
We do not need particular scriptures or a guru to tell us how much we can or cannot make.
It boils down to striving to be the kind of person who can gratefully chill at a luxury 5-star hotel or a cheap motel, as well as equally esteem people who stay at either. Be the person grateful to have shelter.
Be the kind of person who can appreciate both a Michelin 3-star restaurant and a casual spot. Be the person grateful to have a meal.
Be the Christ who can learn from people who traveled to meet you via private jet or the bus. Be grateful.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.
I think the gospel-the good news is an approachable gospel.
I suppose I subscribe to a cheap motel prosperity gospel, then.
Cheap motel prosperity gospel: I dare you to say it three times really fast.
It is rich in that it meets us where we are, including a cheap motel, and esteem us all with worth beyond all of our currency, and precious materials.
It is the good news that reaches the heart of the celebrity who is surrounded by fakeness and yes-people, who can have whatever and whenever, but no matter what they achieve or buy, it does not fill the hollowness in their souls. This message of an abundance of love and acceptance is beyond anything in this world.
It is the same gospel that reaches the woman, trapped in prostitution at the feeling used and shamed by society who do not know her story of a troubled childhood.
It is the message of her worth, dignity, and righteousness that transcends the gospel of the male ministers who frequented her in the shadows at the cheap motel.
It is the same gospel which reaches the man who feels like he has been the family screw-up his entire life.
It reaches the corporate executive, who feels like she has somehow lost her purpose and her way.
This gospel is not the news of a trouble-free life, but it is the news of being loved unconditionally. It is a journey of transformation and freedom to live and love like God.
This is something I love about the path of Christ. Christ does not need us to have a high social status to sit with and fellowship with us. The way of Christ is one that can go to the palace or the blues joint and lovingly behold the infinite worth and value of all the people there.
The fundamental truth of a such a gospel boils down to gratitude.
Gratitude makes our lives richer.
When we are grateful, we have abundance.
Three Points of Wisdom from Days 29-35
1. Your material possessions will never catch up to your inherent worth.
2. God does not love you more or less based on your material properties and social status.
3. You can acquire material wealth without greed or pseudo-spirituality and with a heart of gratitude.