Spirituality for Today – April 2011 – Volume 15, Issue 9

Cost of Living

By Rev. Raymond Petrucci

A person living in a cardboard box under a highway overpass and a person living in a multi-million dollar mansion share at least one thing in common. They want their standard of living either to remain the same or to improve, but not to lower. The cost of maintaining a standard of living varies from state to state, town to town, and even neighborhood to neighborhood. One is able to calculate the differences by comparing the many factors that add up to the cost of living in one locale with that of any other location. For example, if you live in Greenwich, Connecticut and have an annual income of $250,000.00, you can move to Robbinsdale, Minnesota and you only would need to earn $64,002.00 in order to maintain the same standard of living.

A photo of a homeless man living in a cardboard box

In calculating the standard of living one is experiencing, the perspective is altered dramatically when an effort is made to evaluate one's current "spiritual" condition. The gift of life is an investment God makes in a human being. The individual is expected to return it spent in a manner that was profitable. The parable of the master who doled out certain sums of money to his servants in order to see how they managed it in his absence is an excellent example of this point. Only the servant who hid the funds he was given received condemnation. No one is expected to do nothing with the life entrusted to him or her. The profitability of one's spiritual life may be unrecognized or unappreciated by the individual. The harvest of the seeds sown in living a religiously attuned life is not measured by the price per bushel or shown on a balance sheet. The return on investment is marked by the moral growth in human relationships and the impact of a deeper, more intimate prayer life. A well lived spiritual life that bore much fruit may not be fully understood by the believer until he or she is standing before the judgment seat of God.

The responsibility and accountability to God innate in the gift of life itself reveals the nature not only of the challenges of life, but also of its rewards. The sweat equity inherent in building a human existence devotedly focused on the service of God is immense. The benefits rain upon the receiver and the giver alike. For the faithful, living a solely self-indulgence and self-centered life is definitively unnatural. No matter how tempting this philosophy may appear at times, adopting such a course finds true satisfaction and fulfillment in life wanting. This lack of meaning is not reflective of the essence of human nature.

Martin Burber once described love as "the responsibility of an I for a Thou." In this statement, the successful human dynamic represented as the depositing of love – in all of its true and substantive expressions – into the interactions that constitute the context of daily living unwraps life's treasures. To live courageously and confidently in God's truth is the surest advice for achieving the highest standard of living.

The turbulent billows of the fretful surface leave the deep parts of the ocean undisturbed; and to him who has a hold on vaster and more permanent realities, the hourly vicissitudes of his personal destiny seem relatively insignificant things. The really religious person is accordingly unshakable and full of equanimity and calmly ready for any duty the day may bring forth.

- William James

Jesus Christ is the model for living the authentically human life. Jesus is the paradigm for the response a person should make to the life-giving love of the Creator. The "Word made flesh" represents not only God's love for humankind, but God's love within humankind.

Life, in all of its agony and ecstasy, played itself out in the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ. His redemptive suffering gave all human suffering meaning; his divine forgiveness and love gave human life purpose and hope. Through Jesus' sacrifice on the altar of the cross and his ultimate victory over evil and the grave, the lessons are taught about the cost and the glory of life.

In celebrating the Resurrection of Christ, all humanity looks within and through the empty tomb to a "standard of living" far beyond the capacities of the human mind to conceive. Jesus stands before all humanity as the ultimate goal, the prize to be won, and the completion of all human striving. The risen Christ is limitless and ubiquitous, reigning not only in the heavenly kingdom, but also along the entire path of human existence. The "good life" is the holy life. May God grant a blessed Easter to you and your loved ones.