Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one or love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
Luke 16:10-13 (NRSV)
After I read a great story, I like to scratch out a sketch of its plot. It’s fun to follow the protagonist(s) through the events of the story, reliving the way the author built tension up to a point of maximum conflict only to, generally at least, bring about some form of resolution. You can do this with any book (particularly Bible stories) or movie… if you’ll follow me on a short exercise, I’d like to use the first Toy Story film. If you haven’t seen it yet, I both have a hard time believing you and also recommend it on its own merits, not only to better understand what I’m trying to say here.
There are two main characters and interweaving storylines in Toy Story. One, Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks) understands he is a toy, and that not only is he a toy, he is the favorite toy in Andy’s whole toy collection. A new character is introduced named Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), a space ranger who does not realize he is a toy. As the audience we watch this play out and find it very funny as Woody and Buzz go on this unexpected journey together. This is a journey neither of them chose. They are stuck together. We watch as Woody realizes he is no longer Andy’s favorite toy, which leads him to stage an accident and banish the newcomer; we watch as Buzz begins to accept his identity as a toy and his limitations (he can’t fly, but he can fall with style). He finds a way to love his life. And, because this is a feature film, we get a great ending sequence which resolves the conflict of that story cleanly and leaves us a satisfied and happy audience.
It’s interesting to step back and realize, however, that in a story like this, the characters don’t know everything that we the reader/audience do at any point. They are reacting to the situations in their world which then lead them to new, unexpected outcomes. And because stories generally need to have beginnings, middles, and ends, things will wrap up.
When it comes to us, however, it seems like we spend almost all of it in the middle of things, stuck, with new conflicts and challenges and joys and triumphs all sliding along sometimes with little warning or time to build an expectation. We are stuck in this middle part with a particular group of people, many of whom we did not choose, and then given free will to live together. As our stories play out and we get pulled in different directions, it can even be easy to lose the thread of our own lives.
Faith in Christ does not instantaneously banish all your troubles. In fact, moving deeper into discipleship can create its own new challenges. The Peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding does, however, resolve some of the main, recurring points of tension we will encounter. Wherever you are in the plot of your life, you have to make decisions involving money, and those decisions can send ripples out which impact yourself and others for years to come. Money can bring hope, joy, healing, and life; money can sow division, breed greed, create waste, and destroy. The power of money in your own life is something you will need to grapple with seriously, each and every day, whatever your socioeconomic status. Primary loyalty first to God and a vision of who you are in that light – a beloved child of God, equipped and empowered to bear witness to the great mercy and grace at the center of our universe – will lead you well through all the disruptions you face. So then: watch Toy Story, live generously, and receive the grace which simply is.
Grace and Peace,