I once heard Anne Lamott talk about addiction.
In her brilliant manner, she delivered the following wonderful comment: “I have been addicted to just about everything one can be in life, but gambling. And that is a huge ‘but’ in my life, it might just be I have never had the chance … I am an addict and we all are addicts.”
There is great truth in her words, as it seems that a common trait of the human experience is addiction.
Some of us are addicted to substances, others to their image and ego, and still others to being with someone else. A propensity toward addiction seems to pulse through the blood of humanity.
The New York Times ran a wonderful editorial by a former Wall Street trader recently. The column began with this line: “In my last year on Wall Street, my bonus was $3.6 million and I was angry because it wasn’t big enough.”
The author, Sam Polk, then confesses, “I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic needs another drink: I was addicted.”
I am constantly surprised by those outside the church who have the courage to say the things the church is being called to say, yet lacks the courage to do so.
This author does just that by pointing out that the greatest addiction in America today is to money and materialism.
We are addicted to wanting and needing more, and money is how we get it. This addiction is killing not only our nation, but also our world.
Friends who have gone through addiction programs summarize the experience with these words: “You admit you have a problem and then you make a plan.”
Many of us have not reached this stage yet with regards to our possessions. It’s time for us to come together as people of faith who are struggling to follow Jesus Christ and to admit that we are all struggling with this addiction to more stuff and more money.
The good news is that once we’ve confessed that this need for more is deep in our souls, we don’t have to come up with a game plan.
Jesus demonstrated the plan for us in the life he lived on this earth. Our plan, he said in a parable about wealth and possessions, is to give and not to store (see Luke 12:13-21).
I confess that this is not easy to do. Over the years, I struggled to manage my own finances and to be consistent in tithing. I wish I could write that I have conquered this matter, but it’s still a struggle.
This year, as I make my financial plans, I have a daughter starting school and a son who seems to outgrow his shoes every other day.
It would be easy to cut back on what I give to the church and to other charities in order to pay for those things. But that is not the call of Jesus.
In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus urges his disciples to store up treasures in heaven by living the way of life that he has set forth.
He then offers one of the most insightful, yet difficult, of his teachings: “You cannot serve both God and wealth.”
We are to give first to advance the Kingdom of God and then worry about the other things.
This guidance might go against the grain of our world, but the teachings of Jesus often do exactly that.
Griff Martin is co-pastor of University Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La.