Taking On Responsibility
Rereading Job alongside Paul's second letter to the Corinthians is giving me a lot of pause, and much food for thought. Job's existential contention with his friends and by extension God is creating this sharp tension for me when I lay it up against Paul's continual exhortation that the folk of the Church in Corinth grow up spiritually and take on the responsibility of living fully into the life of Christ. On one side of this tight wire of faith we are being asked to walk is an acknowledged, self-involved struggle for meaning in the face of what can most kindly be called "hard times". On the other pole, the wire is drawn taut against Paul's admonition that faith without faithful work--in this case today, stewardship--is worthless, hollow and disappointing to God.
When times are hard, we all know, you have to be very careful about the expenditure of resources. Not knowing if you have enough to weather is storm is one thing, and striving to maintain immediate comfort and safety is one more thing. Both are on the list of "What I Need to Live Life and Provide for My Family." That quotient varies for everyone, but we can all say "yes" to its existence within us. Behind that assumption, though, lies a pitfall: How much is enough?
Job really did have it all. Job really did lose it all. He and his friends are now engaged in a wrenching argument about just what role God plays in all this upheaval...and what Job's responsibility is in this turn of events. We know he is blameless. That's the twist in this plot. What remains is determining whose responsibility this all is. Is it God's? But....God is God....and blameless, right? Then it must be Job....but....Job is blameless, too. Oh.....no.
Just about the time my brain starts to hurt, I turn to Paul. Bless that cranky apostle...today we find him in the midst of one of the most strongly worded stewardship sermons I have come across in the Bible. Titus is on his way to collect an offering of support from the Corinthians, and Paul is stepping up on the church there with a reminder that with great faith (to paraphrase comic-book king Stan Lee) comes great responsibility. Without regard to how changeable life can be, Paul's directions on the responsibility of good stewardship boil down to a simple credo....that those who have much don't have too much; and that those who have little don't have too little. Instead of assigning blame, Paul calls on us to step up and take responsibility. That's the heart's key to a solid life in Christ, I am coming to realize...that if life is to have meaning and purpose, that meaning and purpose come from embracing the call to ensure all have enough. We cannot overcome fate...but we can work to ensure common weal. That much is true.....