Our Lady or God’s Children?
As many people were, I was saddened to see the reports of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris burning a couple weeks ago. I’m not Catholic but I do love history and I love old buildings. I missed a chance to go to Paris in 2016 and so I thought it was something I would now never get to see.
The next day I read reports of nearly a Billion dollars being pledged to the rebuilding of the 850-year-old structure. This brought mixed feelings to me. I am a part of a small church which works hard every year to garner around $25,000 for what we call Harvest Of Talents, every penny of which goes to feed starving people, virtually all of them in 3rd world countries.
In addition to that, we help support 20 separate missions. Many of these struggle to make a budget every year and there are missionaries who have to turn away people in need, all while going without what most of us enjoy each and every day, simply because there is not enough money.
I say it brought mixed feelings because even though I am an advocate for giving to help the needy, I am not an advocate of having nothing beautiful in the world “Because the money could have been spent better elsewhere.” I believe money is a blessing to be stewarded.
I am a bit tight with the cash myself, never having been at all wealthy. I tend to keep things pretty basic. I drive a tiny 14-year-old car with no frills that gets made fun of, but it is really cheap for me to own and, hey, it just keeps right on chugging along so…
But I also know that things of beauty and awe are wonderful. I have gone to museums and had tears in my eyes due to the wonderful things I have seen there. I also think of the temple of Solomon. The Old Testament king of Israel who built a building of awe and spender which would make Notre Dame Cathedral pale in comparison. The gold inlay in one room cost more than the Paris Cathedral would to build from the ground up.
This Temple was built for many reasons. It was to be in honor of God. It was also to show the people a glimpse of just how magnificent God is. But no matter how impressive it was, even Solomon recognized that it would still be unworthy of God in every way. (2 Chronicles 2:4-6) But he still wanted people to be inspired and have awe fill their hearts when they came there to make their sacrifices and worship.
When I did some reading on the Cathedral of Notre-Dame I was surprised to find that when it was built, 850 years ago, and right up through modern times, it was never a favorite of Kings and “important” people. Rather, it was a place of worship of the every day man and woman. Commoners, like me, who would come and be inspired in their worship of an amazing God. Even if they could not read they could see the marvels of the stained glass windows which tell the gospel in picture form, from Adam and Eve with the serpent in the Garden of Eden, to the birth of Christ to the crucifixion and resurrection. Much as it is in many of the ancient churches.
I also saw pictures of and read about Parisians (not known for being very religious of late) falling on their knees in prayer and weeping as they saw the magnificent lady burn. I have to wonder if the loss and possible restoration might once again have her inspiring people to come to the Lord.
But a Billion Dollars? Surely that could better be spent feeding the starving. Well, yes, it could… if that were the only money available, I would say that it is insane to rebuild an old church than to feed people who are dying. But it’s not.
The net value of the United States (that is, what people own minus what they owe in debt) is, get this, 100 Trillion dollars (that’s Trillion, with a T!) In fact, our net worth went up by 1 Trillion just in the first three months of 2018. To make this more understandable to minds like my own, 1 trillion is 1000 billion. Just in the US, we have 100,000 billion over and above our debts. Europe is nearly the same. They have 85 Trillion net worth.
Now, lets cut that down a little bit because, as everybody knows, the richest of the rich have most of the money. True. In the US the top 25% have 85% of the money. Pretty much the same in Europe. Let us imagine that all rich people are greedy selfish heathens who never give any of their money away (it’s not true, they give away billions and many of them are Christians) but just for the sake of argument, lets leave them out.
What does that leave us with? A paltry 27.75 Trillion dollars in Europe and the US. That’s 27,750 billion over and above any debts. Reports I have read said that it will take about $7 billion a year to end world hunger. With just the “poor” people of the US and Europe involved, we could rebuild the Cathedral ten times over and have enough to feed the whole world without even raising a sweat. Easy peasy.
So why don’t we? Because as much as we like to think of ourselves as far better than those evil rich people with all the money, we like to spend our money on ourselves almost all of the time. Even very giving, very religious, very loving people generally only give 10% (or less) to charity. Yes, some give significantly more, but even if we give 15% doesn’t that mean that we are spending the overwhelming majority of our money on us?
It is much easier to blame bogeymen like “The evil rich” or to complain that people are giving too much to wasted things like rebuilding 850-year-old buildings than feeding hungry people. The truth is, there is more than enough money to go around. It’s just that it is hard to get it out of our pockets.