Wealth, therefore, is “THE POSSESSION OF THE VALUABLE BY THE VALIANT”; and in considering it as a power existing in a nation, the two elements, the value of the thing, and the valour of its possessor, must be estimated together. Whence it appears that many of the persons commonly considered wealthy, are in reality no more wealthy than the locks of their own strong boxes are, they being inherently and eternally incapable of wealth; and operating for the nation, in an economical point of view, either as pools of dead water, and eddies in a stream (which, so long as the stream flows, are useless, or serve only to drown people, but may become of importance in a state of stagnation should the stream dry); or else, as dams in a river, of which the ultimate service depends not on the dam, but the miller; or else, as mere accidental stays and impediments, acting not as wealth, but (for we ought to have a correspondent term) as “illth,” causing various devastation and trouble around them in all directions; or lastly, act not at all, but are merely animated conditions of delay, (no use being possible of anything they have until they are dead,) in which last condition they are nevertheless often useful as delays, and “impedimenta,” if a nation is apt to move too fast. — John Ruskin “Ad Valorem,” 1860
Chuck put this quote on his Facebook page the other day. It is so great and so coolly old, that it bears repeating. It reminded me that the sleeping bear of the younger class is finally waking up in response to its self-interest. It is finally finding its voice in response to, you guessed it, economics. Its entire childhood and youth has been nurtured in an atmosphere of debate about economics and in preparation to be employed as part of the economy. Its elders have systematically denuded the societal landscape of meaningful dialogue and morality and reduced everything, socially or philosophically, to a “free market.”
Christians generally have nothing meaningful to say about this change, either being swept up in it or totally marginalized by the new narrative. So in the spirit of Ruskin, I want to redo his quote for the faithful. Since the sleeping lion is really asleep, and the source of true wealth that so many of the younger generation are seeking is not going to be found in the “economy” or in political justice or in freedom or in any of the other sources upon which the 99% (a purely economic designation, but the title that is sticking) are making demands. Here I go.
Faith, then, is the possession of the valued. It is not only valuable in itself, but it makes the possessor valorous and so valuable to the world. The question has always been, if a supposedly faithful person is not valorous in the cause of his or her faith, are they faithful? Many people who attend meetings and wear the name Christian, are no more faithful than a time schedule or a title, since they never act on anything the meeting implies or the name includes. They are not receiving or dispensing living water, they have, in fact become dead water, they are eddies in a stream – they no longer are part of the live flow, but one could die of them if they should fall into them, and should they become fully separated from the Savior and his people they could be a stagnant pool growing contagion. Worse yet they become dams, sitting among the faithful impeding what could be done if the water did not have to come up against them or find a way around them or wait for them to deteriorate enough to break apart.
Does anyone want to be “impedimenta?” Of course not. It happens when valor is misdirected, at best, or is no longer an aspiration, at worst. Among us people become impediments when their valor is spent on their part in the economy and they have no practical plan for home or shop that has anything to do with Jesus. When the economy runs us around and God seems too nice to demand more courage we’re dying.
A few suggestions for being faithfully valorous: 1) Follow the inspiration(s) God will give you after you have spent ten minutes, or so, every day with him in concentrated relating for a week. It doesn’t take much to get marching orders. 2) Multiply your cell with people who are not delivered to you by the “church” — go ahead and include them in your life rather than merely being included in theirs. 3) Take the steps in your marriage that will bring it to a place where positive, God-inspired things are directing it rather than your energy-sucking power struggle. 4) Make your church something that makes a difference, never merely inhabit it. 5) Use the occupy movement as a tool for your faith; love, relate, discuss, protest, but don’t be the backside of the “economy.”