Rags to Riches

Would you like to swing on a star
Carry moonbeams home in a jar
And be better off than you are
Or would you rather be a mule?

--"Swinging on a Star"
Lyrics by Johnny Burke

Who's in charge here? Much of our personal and political life is taken up with a struggle for control.  Implicit in this is a deeply ingrained belief that life is governed by external forces that must somehow be subdued, whether by persuasion, bullying or manipulation.  Our goal is to carve out a small sphere of personal hegemony through force of will.  Politicians and captains of industry might widen their sphere of hegemony through special skill in exercising power over others.  Occasionally, a Napoleon or Hitler will hold sway over entire nations.  (By no coincidence, Leni Riefenstahl's cinematic paean to the Third Reich was entitled The Triumph of the Will.)

It is all a delusion.  We are like a deranged rich man who dresses himself in rags and goes begging in the street.  We congratulate ourselves on the few shiny coins tossed our way, having entirely forgotten who we are and where we come from.  The reality is we are created in God's image and given dominion over his creation.  The kingdom of God is ours for the asking, but we must not confuse dominion with domination.  The kingdom of God will never yield to force of will.

Christians are taught that if we had as much faith as a mustard seed, we could move mountains.  But since we do not believe we can move mountains, we conclude we must have no faith.  We regard faith like Popeye's can of spinach.  If only we had some, we could wade into life's brawl with both fists flying.

Jesus' example is instructive here.  The Apostle Paul said, "Let the same mind be in you that that is Jesus Christ, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality of God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness."  In effect, Jesus made himself like the rich man who dressed in rags.  But he never forgot who he was or where he came from, and neither should we.  Instead of trying to impose our will on the world, we must surrender it.  Then we will discover that all the power in God's creation is ours to command.     

Philippians 2:5-7

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