In a society of rich and poor, and a huge sense of entitlement, can we cope with the level of riches we have? That is, not 'Can you live within your means?' but 'Can you have what you have without greed, covetousness, discontent or pride in possessions?'
'Society has let them down.' That doesn't excuse us our sin - pride that our lives are morally superior, our covetousness for the slightly better thing, our mistaking comfort for contentment.
Sometimes, we can be like a film star, with all the money, fine clothes and food, friends and loving family, and satisfying work we could want, gazing at TV footage of looters. 'I thank you, God, that I am not like other men: violent, robbers, greedy, unloving. I only do decent films and do lots of charity functions.'
As I search for a job, aware of the impossibility of living off Job Seeker's Allowance, it's easy to put hope in a future salary. I would love to be able to support others more in missionary work. But also, realistically, as the inspired heart-doctor James wrote, 'even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong - you want only what will give you pleasure.'
'But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires.'
So in an excellent reflection on the recent spates of looting in English cities (Looters: them or us?), Mike Ovey reminds us of the (difficult) prayer of the Wise:
Give me neither poverty nor riches!
Give me just enough to satisfy my needs.
For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, "Who is the Lord?"
And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name. [Proverbs 30:8-9 NLT]
Can we truly pray that? 'Lord, please keep me from being more rich than I can cope with. Keep me poor enough to rely on you and love others.'
'So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honour.'