Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Where Our Heart Is

There are, among pastors responsible for drumming up financial resources to sustain their congregations, a variety of little proof-texts that we're compelled to go to. One of the more painfully cliche Bible passages that always show up when the church needs new carpet for the youth room is the Matthew 6:21:
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Meaning, if something is really important to you, you commit of your material resources to support it. It's a practical measure of assessing what is truly important to a person. If I give money to insure orphans in Malawi have clean drinking water, I make a statement about my priorities. If I give most of my money to Jack Daniels, Louis Vuitton and Jimmy Choo, that also makes a clear statement about my priorities.

Jesus, of course, spun this saying in some very interesting ways, ways that radically subvert our conventional understanding of wealth. But that discussion is for another post. What strikes me this morning is how the simpler funderstanding of the saying plays against the recent talk of a federal spending freeze. From both parties, we're now hearing concern about the exploding federal deficit. So now comes the more increases in spending. Hold the line. No more growth until we get our addiction to debt under control. I'm actually fine with that principle. We need to learn to live within our means, and soon.

But there is, of course, one exception. Our spending on weapons and the coercive implements of state security will be exempted from that freeze. There are many reasons given for this. Most of them boil down to this: We are at war and facing possible dire threats from possible enemies at home and abroad, as we have been every day of my forty-one years. And every day of my parent's lives. America is always at war or preparing for war. So even though we spend more on guns and jails than the rest of the world combined, we cannot possibly even consider the possibility of not spending more on that area of our national life.

That is because, as any pastor could tell you, war is where America's heart is.