Our ever-expanding rights…

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One of the resources I am using for the series I am doing at Morgantown Community Church, on the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’, is a book called Sinning Like a Christian by Will Willimon. This week I am preparing to talk about Greed and found a short section of his chapter dealing with this topic too good, maybe convicting is a better word, not to share. 

Willimon writes:

“We live in a land ruled over by the Constitution that gives us all certain innate “rights.” The purpose of this democracy is to give us our rights. Perhaps we are among the first generation in this society to realize that desire has a way of being elevated to the level of need, and need gets further inflated to the level of rights. Our rights are thus an ever-expanding list because my desires are a bottomless pit. Thus nobel democracy becomes a relentless commercial supermarket where we rush about grabbing everything we can out of fear that we might neglect the one thing that would give us lives that are worth living.”

‘Our rights,’ he says, ‘are thus an ever-expanding list…’

This made me think of Paul’s Christ-hymn in Philippians 2, where he calls us to an imitation of Jesus, who ’emptied himself’ and ‘did not cling to his rights’. The problem is, too often with us, we do the opposite. We are full of ourselves and our rights, and empty of compassion and mercy. We are consumers who ravage everything we desire, leaving little to be shared with the poor and hungry among us. 

Lots of people complain about programs that help the poorest among us, and no doubt those programs do need a bit of tweaking here and there; however, those programs exist because we can’t be depended on. We ignore the plight of our neighbors, all the while buying bigger and better with more storage for our ever increasing collection of things that, to be honest, we really don’t need. 

I’m guilty as charged. 

God, help us follow this way of Jesus–the self-emptying, right-surrendering way. Open our eyes to the ways in which greed has burrowed down deep in our hearts, so much so, that we don’t even notice it. And fill us with the character, compassion, mercy, and resolve to make the changes that are necessary to be free from greed’s grasp. 

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