“O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.”
Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem
In his politically charged Sermon 130, National Sins and Miseries, John Wesley challenged the people of England to stop blaming their politicians (guilty as they may be) for the problems in society, and start to look inward. While we need politicians and leaders to take responsibility for the way their words and policies impact society, we the common citizens must search our own souls and say with David, “Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: But these sheep, what have they done?” (2 Sam 24:17). How have my actions and inaction caused the sufferings I presently experience? How have my actions and inaction caused the sufferings of others?
Wesley challenged the political climate of his day (read, the American Revolution), because everyone was demanding their own personal freedoms and seeking to make themselves fat without taking responsibility for the way their gluttony and pride overlooked the actual needs of tens of thousands of homeless and starving in England. Instead of praising how small the world had become, and how expansive capitalism had become, Wesley mourned: “Luxury is constantly the parent of sloth. Every glutton will, in due time, be a drone. The more of meat and drink he devours, the less taste will he have for labour.” After doing a little research into the consumer market today, Wesley’s words don’t seem to have any less impact in our current climate. I recently heard a podcast where my generation was described as “loving the idea of service, but not that interested in actually serving.” I will spend extra money on something for myself and feel good about my contribution to the world because the company will give five cents to a hungry person. Why didn’t I just give all that money to the hungry person instead of giving to myself first?
When you reflect on your spending and serving practices, how much are you driven by your personal appetite, and how much are you driven by a true desire to serve others? Is your stomach controlling you? Is that real freedom? How have your actions and inaction caused the sufferings of others, directly or indirectly?