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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Haves in a Have-not World

I am a have in a have-not world. Miroslav Volf, a professor at the Yale Divinity School, has recently noted that, "At the end of the 19th century, the ratio of the richest 20% in the world to the poorest 20% was about 7:1; at the end of the 20th century, it was 75:1."

And the terrible irony of it all is the bottomless wanting of the haves, like me. An ancient Proverb says it well: "Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of the man."

I wake today to clean water running from my faucet and a toilet that flushes. The nearest hospital is minutes from my house. The neighborhood where I live is safe, and the school my children attend is reputable. We have two cars and two refrigerators, and all seven of us will leave the house this morning dressed in our goose-down coats and wool hats.

I haven't had to worry about how we'd pay for groceries or clothes or heat this month.

When we needed snow tires, we bought them. When the co-pay for Colin's surgery registered $200, we paid it. When Camille told me yesterday she needed colored pencils, we'd stopped by the school store. "Do you want the 12- or 24-pack?"

I am a have in a have-not world, and the ridiculousness of it all is that I could want more.

If reading the Scriptures is like setting yourself in the path of the Wind, then we haves must face the real possibility of having our house, like Dorothy's, torn from its foundations and flung into dizzying motion.

"Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! . . . You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence." James 5:1-5

I admit how uncomfortable these words make me. Luxury and self-indulgence - these words, in all their weight, thud at my feet.

Mostly because I know how deeply divided I am when it comes to the wanting and the having.

And I know the momentum of the gospel- how God wants me moved into the giving and the sacrificing and the empyting.

I know there is yet unwillingness in me. Reluctance. Resistance.

A have and her miserable wanting.

I do the only thing I know to do: I keep admitting it.

And there are words I continue to set before my heart, prayers that I hope seep down deep and do the reaching that I cannot.

Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. Psalm 119:36, 37