Advent Week 2: Peace
1 Timothy 6.17-19, NRSV
As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.
This fall I’ve found myself often engaging students with two seemingly unrelated concepts — Privilege and Mindfulness — but for those of us awaiting and seeking God’s transforming presence in our lives and world, the two concepts very much go together.
I think few words right now set people on edge like privilege, but pointing out privilege is not an attack or accusation. We all have privilege of varying forms that give us advantages (often unnoticed) over other people. For example, it is far easier to be white in our society, and the slogan #BlackLivesMatter calls attention to the fact that far too often black lives don’t matter, and that’s not just. But there are many forms of privilege. I also have male privilege, straight privilege, education privilege, and even right-handed privilege.
You may be wondering if this biblical passage really speaks to you. If you’re college educated and live a comfortable middle class existence, then it most certainly does. You are a global one-percenter. You may not feel rich by American standards, but remember that a billion people in this world are food insecure. I live in Alamance County, where 1 in 4 children are food insecure, and I suspect that Guilford County is not that different.
Having privilege is not the problem. Here in 1 Timothy, being rich is not the problem. The issue is what we do with it. Do we place our confidence (our faith) in our wealth and privilege, or trusting God, do we share our privilege with others?
For me, that’s where Mindfulness comes in. Being Mindful is simply being aware — fully aware — of the present moment. You see, far too often, we don’t even really recognize the present because we’re too caught up in anxious worries about the past or future or we’re too distracted by our phones and gadgets. Prayer and mediation can help us cultivate Mindfulness. They may seem like private individual disciplines, but meditation is proven to increase compassion and kindness for others.
One of the best Mindful disciplines is the practice of gratitude. Take a moment each day to be grateful for one or two blessings in your life. It will help you recognize your privilege and your blessings, and also make you more open to sharing those blessings with others. That sharing and generosity — that loving openness to others — is how we discover true wealth and true life.
Prayer: Gracious God, you are truly most merciful and compassionate, and we give thanks to you for all the riches and blessings in our lives. Make us more mindful of our blessings, more aware of our privilege, and open our hearts to those who are less fortunate among us. We pray for a more just and generous society. We pray for your beloved community fully present in our midst. And we pray that you would begin with us, and our acts of kindness and generosity, so that we may truly discover the life that really is life. Amen.
Action: Cultivate gratitude throughout this season, and practice a random act of kindness today for someone in your life.
Joel Harter is Associate Chaplain for Protestant Life at Elon University.