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  • Writer's pictureSteven Marsh

Austerity and the Will of God: a Reflection on Psalm 94, Isaiah 57:14-21, Galatians 6:11-18, and Mar

There is always a reaction to austerity measures; even when we self-impose them for all the right reasons. Frugality is a worthy value. Meeting basic human needs is an equally worthy value.

We have watched the economic crisis in Greece these past five plus years. Debt was out of control and Europe imposed strict measures on Greece’s debt as Greece participates in the Euro.

Three weeks ago, Greece elected the far-left populist candidate as its Prime Minister. Mr. Tsipras ran on the platform of demanding a big cut in Greece’s debt payment and a public spending spree.

I get it, on one level. Too much austerity kills hope. From the Christian perspective, hope is the expectation that what God has promised will come to fruition. God promises an abundant life.

God also promises to take vengeance on the wicked. When? In so many ways the wicked continue to triumph. With the psalmist I wonder if some churches promote an austerity plan in its teaching and programming as a mechanism to help congregants believe that they are being sacrificial. Promoting a doctrine of scarcity is so contrary to the gospel. And, what is the impact on “the neighbor” when a congregation turns so radically inward, becoming pre-occupied with its budget, its programs, and its appearance of holiness?

God promises that every human will confess Jesus Christ as Lord. God views misguided austerity plans as a deterrence to people getting into relationship with him. With the prophet Isaiah and Paul, we must only boast in how our lives and ministries as followers of Jesus are giving themselves away for the sake of others. Yet, so often, the church boasts in its plans, ways, and “austerity” programs.

God promises that following Jesus is about losing life and then finding it. Jesus told his disciples that he would be betrayed, killed, and rise from the dead. They didn’t get it and we struggle with it centuries later.

Being wise stewards of all resources is a worthy and important platform for followers of Jesus and local congregations. The crying and deafening human need is equally significant. There can be no boasting in balanced budgets when the streets and even our pews are filled with the ache of human need unmet.

Scripture readings are taken from the two-year daily lectionary cycle which follows the liturgical calendar and begins on the First Sunday of Advent.

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