Faithfulness and Responsibility

I've been reading this great book the past few months called Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth E. Bailey. The purpose of the book is to place the life of Jesus in its proper Middle Eastern context, which of course is very different from our Western culture. One of the themes that has been popping up more as I near the end of the book is that we often view some of the parables of Jesus through a capitalist lens, when the culture he spoke through was far from the economics we experience today.

This shift of lens changes things, so I'll start by asking, what is the typical American seeking these days? It used to be to work hard, take care of the family, buy a house and eventually retire someplace comfortable. Now it seems to be to develop an app or a business, and then sell it to a larger company for an exorbitant amount of money in order to live easy, or maybe invest in something else. The motivation has shifted from a nice life in a solid community to a huge chunk of cash and opulent living.

There can good and bad in both scenarios, and that's not really what I want to discuss here. What I want to ask now is what should the Christian's priorities be in this world? Where should our focus lie as we navigate life? When I read the bible, I can't help but think that we are missing something if the greatest of our efforts are to build wealth.

While discussing the Parable of the Pounds (Luke 19:11-27), Bailey presents:
"The reward for faithfulness is greater responsibilities. The servant whose pound produced ten was not given a generous pension, a paid vacation or a villa on the sea. He was appointed ruler over ten cities." (Page 408)
What do you think of that?! The goal of a faithful servant, according to Jesus, should be greater responsibility under his master, not the absence of responsibility in a lifelong vacation. I remember being convicted by a preacher years ago when he said something similar: Jesus took the ultimate responsibility of the world's sins -- something he should have had no part in -- so Christ-followers need to spend our lives doing the same; seeking greater responsibility, not leisure or an easy life.

This involves a total shift in priorities, and one that frankly doesn't mix well with Western capitalism. There are exceptions I'm sure, and plenty of folks that make lots of money and give it away. Even Jesus said, "I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings." (Luke 16:9) I could be taking that out of context, but it's certainly something to consider as we continually develop the priorities that guide our lives.

I'm going to continue this one later, but I'll leave you with this, a verse I tend to land on that so often sums up what this life is about: "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33)