“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
(2 Corinthians 8:9)
As I prepared to write about the giving of our time, a lecture entitled It All Turns on Affection by Wendell Berry came to mind. Over the past few years I have been encouraged by the wisdom and humility of someone who is more than twice my age when I reflect on where and how I give of myself in Richmond.
The first time I read this lecture I was flying home from a conference in Louisville, relishing in the quiet crunch of free pretzels. During a privileged moment marked by few distractions, Berry’s words contrasting the life of an upwardly-mobile entrepreneur to that of a humble tobacco farmer gave me pause:
The boomer is motivated by greed, the desire for money, property, and therefore power [...] Stickers on the contrary are motivated by affection, by such love for a place and its life that they want to preserve it and remain in it.
I reflected on the previous five years of living in Richmond and the future I had envisioned. What was my primary motive behind wanting to spend my days here? Was I driven by affection for the people and places that God had allowed me to be a part of, or was I overly focused on the new opportunities I thought Richmond might afford me?
Despite being blessed with kind neighbors, a healthy family, generous colleagues, and ample opportunities to “do justice and to love mercy,” my actions pointed to the latter. I was quick to find reasons that my current lot in life was not enough, and instead of “delighting in the modest good that was at hand,” my primary orientation was that of a boomer. In the words of Berry, my heart was consumed by an unhealthy desire to grasp “at the things I did not yet have.” As a result, I was cultivating a spirit of pride, defensiveness, and subtle forms of anger when obstacles (i.e., people) got in my way.
During that flight God used the wisdom of that lecture to start reorienting the use of my time from one that was primarily focused on next steps to one that wanted to be present with the people in front of me. And over the past several years, good friends and the truth of scripture have continued to bring these ideas to light.
One snippet that stands out to me is 2 Corinthians 8:9. Here I am reminded that Christ “became poor, so that by his poverty [we] might become rich.” In other words, our redeemer forsook all forms of power and privilege, fixed Himself on love, and embraced suffering as His primary means of bringing forth peace and justice.
As I’m tempted to “go wherever the getting is good, to get as much as I can take,” the poverty of Christ serves as an important reminder. If the creator of all life surrendered His, then I can release my selfish ambitions and freely give of my time in humble ways without fear or hesitation.
(Written by Blake Stack)