Spirit Alive: What to Do When You are Part of the 5%

Spirit Alive: What to Do When You are Part of the 5%


Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog that looks at different aspects of mission and ministry throughout the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference and beyond.

March 13, 2018

With Heart, Soul, and Mind:

Finding One's Soul in the Midst of Wealth...and Suffering

"And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?"

A saying of Jesus', according to Matthew 16: 26

OK...let me confess-- I am not a billionaire. In fact, I'm not even a millionaire. But I do have enough to live on...and to do so comfortably...which causes me to step back during Lent and re-examine my life.

It would be easy for anyone to see that I have plenty. I have a warm, comfortable house to live in. I am a part of a loving, caring family that has good health. I have a job that gives me meaning and pleasure. I have good friends, neighbors, and colleagues. I have health insurance. I live in a beautiful part of the world. I have access to water and can eat three meals a day...and I can even have chips and ice cream whenever I want! Indeed, my life is filled with countless blessings. Blessings beyond measure!

I have much to be thankful for...and I don't have to worry about making ends meet at the end of a day.

One could say I am among the privileged...not a part of the 1% by a long shot, but closer to that world than the one that faces millions of migrants who travel across the globe seeking refuge, the basic necessities of life, and freedom.

I don't live on the streets. I'm neither homeless nor a refugee. I don't live in a war torn community. So this probably makes me a part of the top 5% living in the world.

Think about it for a moment...According to the United Nations, there are now over 65 million refugees,

asylum-seekers, and internally displaced people in the world. There are over 4,000 individuals who are without permanent homes in Portland...and an additional 2,000 folks living on the streets in Idaho. And...more than 45 million people, or 14.5% of all Americans, live below the poverty line in the United States.

Yet at the same time, the US stock market recently topped 26,000 points...How crazy is that?

Yes, I realize that commentators are saying that things related to the stock market are volatile...but

volatile in relationship to what? How many individuals who are homeless are concerned about their investment portfolios? How many people living on the margins will benefit from the recent tax reforms?

We are clearly not all living in the same world as neighbors... let alone in the same moral universe. Yes...I'd say that I am pretty wealthy indeed.

So how am I to respond to this situation, especially as a Christian? If we have enough and are not troubled by the realities of inequality and brokenness in the world, then it is probably time to simply wake up and look around. Things are not the same for everyone. There is racial division and hatred among us that leads to oppression and injustice. There are people living in fear and uncertainty. There is economic inequality and poverty....gender inequity....and there is profound human suffering all around.  The world is filled with incomprehensible hurting. But what am I called to do as a part of the 5%?

Feeling guilty doesn't help too much. But I'm not sure that giving everything I have away and becoming homeless myself is a good answer either...even if we have good examples of people, such as Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, and Dorothy Day within the Christian tradition, who pretty much did exactly that!. When I used to work for the Cuernavaca Center for Intercutlural Dialogue on Development in Cuernavaca, Mexico years ago, many of the participants who came to the center and saw extreme poverty for the first time were devastated by the experience. So what does matter...and how should we respond as Christians?

I guess one could say: Everything matters. Being generous with what we have matters. Speaking out on

behalf of others whose voices cannot be heard matters. Reaching out to others in our communities, so that we can connect and learn from and accompany those who are in need...matters as well. Connecting in conversations with both friends and strangers matters. Showing compassion to others matters. Becoming alert to inequality and injustice matters. Not being a bystander matters. Yep, everything matters!

Indeed, we all have resources...both material and spiritual....that we have at our disposal and that can easily be utilized, given away, and shared so that the blessings and privileges we have can make a difference. But it must come not from a place of obligation nor guilt, but from a place of true giving and even joy...This is what happens when a person lays down one's life for others.

This isn't an easy thing to do, but it is clear....for as the prophet says in Micah 6:8: "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." It's something that we can all do. But if, like me, you find yourself in the 5%, then your very soul may depend on it.

Let us walk in the light of God's love,


Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog and email by Rev. Lowell Greathouse, Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference. It seeks to identify where the spirit is alive in our congregations and communities. Check out past editions, or subscribe to the email list.




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Lowell Greathouse

Lowell Greathouse is the Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the United Methodist Church. He looks for places to find where the spirit is alive and help them grow in vitality and fruitfulness. Share with him at lowell@umoi.org

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