Spend It On the World

Grace, part 3

We Unitarian Universalists are called to the work of justice. We strive to temper our own greed, and to care for the poor, the oppressed, the disadvantaged. Our faith calls us to sacrifice consumption for the sake of sustaining the planet. We seek to cultivate our intellectual, spiritual, and emotional capacities: to be mindful of beauty, caring with people, curious, grateful and generous, correct self-centeredness, and see through our own self-deceptions. That’s the good work.

So why doesn’t grace produce complacency? If the greatest boons that life could offer – the full magnificence of riches of air and sunshine, friends and laughter, tastes and sounds, groundhogs and earthworms – is all given free of charge, isn’t that a bit of a work disincentive?

The answer is: we don’t have to pay FOR grace, but we are obligated to pay WITH grace. We are called to take the inheritance of grace that is our birthright and spend it on the world. Let the gift of grace make us gracious, and shine our graciousness upon every person we meet, and into every corner of every situation we enter.

It is as though you won the lottery when you didn’t even buy a ticket. You have millions of dollars of unearned, undeserved money. Great. Now what are you going to do with it? If you just sat on it, or spent it self-indulgently, that would cheapen your inheritance. Grace is free, but it isn’t cheap.

If you’re not using it, you’re forgetting that you have it. It’s unrealized. Grace asks to be invested in promoting everywhere its own fuller and richer realization. Grace is free, yet it makes an infinite demand upon us: to see it more clearly than we have, to love it more dearly than we have, to follow it more nearly than we have.

The abundance of free gifts calls us to be more reverent, and allow room in life for awe. The unmerited favor we receive calls us to the merits of honesty, truthfulness, and humility. The generosity of what the universe gives us calls us to be more generous, and more grateful.

It's like the rich Uncle who writes you an amazingly large check and hands it to you and stands there smiling at you – beaming at you. He says nothing about what he wants in return, nothing about paying it back, or even about paying it forward. Just: "Here." He doesn’t need to say anything because he knows the calling will arise within you, the calling to rise to the opportunities and the challenges the great gift brings you.

A parable from the Lotus Sutra tells of a wealthy man who has a profligate and irresponsible son. On his death bed, the father says to the son, “I have a present for you.” He gives him a jacket. The father says, “All that I have is about to become yours, without condition. You will do with it as you like. Just promise me one thing. Keep the jacket. Never sell it, or give it away, or risk it in a gamble.” The son promises. After the father dies, the son gradually wastes away the family fortune. He spends it irresponsibly, throws expensive parties, gambles it away. After a few years he is homeless and destitute. But he has kept his promise to keep the jacket. It is almost the only possession he has left. One night, preparing to sleep on the streets, he rolls up his jacket to use as a pillow, and feels a lump in the jacket he had not noticed before. He discovers that his father had sewn into the lining, a magnificent jewel beyond price.

You and I are given this jewel beyond price. We have it -- but perhaps sometimes we don't know we have it. Having it requires only that we know we do. All it takes to realize it (make it real) is to realize it (become aware of it).

When you drop the needless anxieties and worries, your spirit will, on its own, rise. It will want to be more open, cultivate an inner hospitality which lets difference in. When you drop the delusions of scarcity, it will stand on the side of love, extending solidarity to those who are suffering, or excluded, or oppressed. When you drop the insecurities and insufficiency, it will grow more strongly self-possessed, able to enter relationships without fear of subordination or domination.

When you drop the overweening drive to earn, to prove yourself – and need only to just be you, you can shine in surprising ways.

It can be scary to trust in grace instead of trusting in your own work and control. It can be scary to see the vast extent of the riches bestowed upon you and feel the call to respond whole-heartedly to the amazing largess. I know it can be scary. But just remember: It’s OK to not know. The other kids don’t either. You are as prepared as you need to be. And: it’s Pierre.

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This is part 3 of 3 of "Grace"
See also
Part 1: Can't Earn It
Part 2: Pay Nothing But Attention

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