By René Myers
We live in a culture where we are encouraged to be afraid of others and to protect, at all cost, what we have for fear of losing it. Our current reality of living in an environment of pandemic seems to intensify that fear. That fear, I believe, is also at the root of systemic racism in our country. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus relates to his disciples the parable of “The Rich Fool.” This wealthy man had ample goods for many years, enough in fact he had to build bigger barns to store them. When he was finally satisfied in their security, God told him his life, his soul was being demanded of him. His obsession with possessions had consumed his very life.
The first of the Ten Commandments is to have no other gods before or beside the Lord, our God. The wealthy man in Jesus’ parable had allowed his possessions to become an idol, which consumed his soul, his life. Fear of losing what we have can cost us our very soul and can separate us from our neighbors, which is a separation from God. When I was young, I remember comedian Jack Benny often repeating in skits on his TV show a scene where someone would point a gun in his face and demand, “Your money or your life!” Benny would slip into a thoughtful silence. When pushed for a response, he would impatiently reply, “I’m thinking; I’m thinking!” He was actually unsure which was of more importance to him – his money or his life.
What idols are we worshiping? How can we put God first and let go of fear? Jesus, when asked to identify the greatest commandment, said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it (just as important): ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” When we live in love – of God and of neighbor – fear has no place. 1 John tells us perfect love casts out fear.
The Presbyterian Mission Agency has embraced our General Assembly’s call to live into the identity as a Matthew 25 church – a detailed description of loving neighbor, and therefore, loving God. To do this, we are focusing our work around three areas:
- Eradicating systemic poverty
- Dismantling structural racism
- Building vital congregations
Giving faithfully and generously is an honest expression of love. We can gain life by engaging God’s mission through our local congregation, and then participating in Shared Mission with our presbytery and the Mission Agency that extends the light, love, and hope of Christ through our partners in ministry across the globe. It helps us to live the call of Matthew 25.
René Myers is the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s mission engagement advisor for the West region.