Some people live without anything and have everything. The example that always comes to mind for me is in Africa, where I preached. This little old black African man and I prayed together after a long session. He prayed with such tenderness, he said, “O Lord, help us never to move into stone houses.” And everybody echoed, “Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord.” Afterward I asked the missionaries what he had meant. “Well,” a priest said, “look at the villages. They’re all doorless thatch huts. And so as long as you live a simple life in a thatch hut with no doors, you don’t know where your family ends and where the next family begins. You move in and out of one another’s lives, and it’s all really one family. And there’s no possessing, there’s no mine and thine; it’s ours, It’s a world of community. “Once the first stone hut is built in a village,” the missionary continued, “very quickly a door and locks are put on it. Immecliately the world of mine and thine is created. The entire social worldview, the entire understanding of self, changes.” We’ve got to realize the world of stone huts is the only world you and I have ever known. We’ve paid a price for that inheritance. We can’t reverse it. We’re not going to live in thatch huts, and I’m not here to say we should. But we’ve got to know what we’ve given up by the so-called technological advances of this very sophisticated society. It’s one reason why we are producing neurotic and psychotic people at such an unbelievable rate. Teen suicides, for example, doubled in the 1980’s. Crime in general has increased 500 percent since 1960!
We’ve chosen security over solidarity in First World countries, in Western Europe and North America. Jesus said you can’t serve God and mammon. I’d say you can’t see God very well if you spend too much time inside your stone house.
from Letting Go: A Spirituality of Subtraction
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