“Why did I keep the car?” – Oscar Schindler
You know that scene near the end of Schindler’s List as the Allies are liberating camps in Poland and Schindler bid’s his Jews goodbye? As he makes his farewell statements, he breaks down confessing how much money he wasted and regretting how many more lives he could have saved?
Schindler, according to the movie – after watching three full hours of unflinching Nazi horror, breaks down in tears and bemoans the fact that he did not sell the car. If he had, he could have saved 10 more lives. His lapel pin could have purchased two. And as the world is changing from darkness to light before his eyes, he laments how much he wasted on himself.
This post is my Schindleric confession – my practice run for the Great Day of Judgment when the King separates the goats and sheep (Matt. 25:31-46). Like practically every American Christian I know, I will be reduced to throwing myself on the mercy of the court. When the King calls forth the sick, the prisoners, the homeless and questions them about whether I showed charity, I will be hanging on every word!
But if I take a page from Oscar Schindler, perhaps I will confess my wayward home-owning like this:
What I Could’ve Done…?
…closets… I had closets. So many closets. Walk in closets. Even had a storm-shelter closet. A closet in the garage. I could have prayed in my closets (Matt. 6:6), but I did not.
… and the kitchen, the dining room, the china cabinet, and all those dishes. Oh, how I complained about washing those dishes. A table that would seat eight, and yet we ate in front of the TV or at the drive thru. I could have thrown parties – and I did! But I invited my rich friends as I tried to impress them with my wealth! But I could have thrown Luke-14 parties and invited the sick, the lame, the blind and the poor!
… the guest room… Oh my God! The guest room. How much did we spend on the Amish-made quilt with the matching drapes, and of course we had to send off to Singapore for those delicate doilies we placed on the night stand to decorate a room only five guests slept in for the last 27 years! And then when the kids left for college one-by-one, their rooms opened up too! They resumed their lodging at the holidays for a few years, but once married, they began staying at the Marriot whenever they came home to visit. And night after night those guest rooms went empty while Jesus slept on the street across town. We could have invited those cold, lonely human beings to join us for the night, or we could have hosted foster children, but obtaining a cabin in Ruidoso somehow seemed better at the time. What was I thinking?
I was thinking of the Jones’s and how to keep up with them, and of living the American Dream. I was thinking of myself, and I forgot Jesus. I am so sorry.
I was an idolater. I told my friends and family that I was committed to following Jesus, that God, the Father, was my God, but really I worshipped at the altars of Mammon (money), Aphrodite (sex), and Mars (power).
MONEY, SEX, and POWER
Money. I could never get enough money. Everything, it seems, begins and ends with money. Money was my alpha and omega. Money was my highest ideal and my bottom line. Yes, I loved money. I even chose a college education I hoped would earn me more money. I was addicted to money and could not imagine a day without it. I really thought money made the world go round while I looked down my nose on people who did not have it and did not know how to worship it properly. Yes, when it came to money, I was a… a… LEGALIST!
And then I bought a house. I shopped for a mortgage that would get me more house for less money so that I could keep more of it for myself. I wanted a nice house. I wanted to live on the nice side of town and send my kids to the best schools. And I did. And when I saw my neighbors (the Jones’s) purchasing golf carts to use dumping the trash or rolling around the neighborhood, I had to have one too.
I drove a 4X4 truck with a big V-8 engine that sucked gallons of gas to the mile, and my wife drove the oversized SUV. And we usually went to church in separate vehicles. But at least we showed off our nice cars down at the fancy church that recently moved out to the white-flight side of town and constructed a million dollar, stained glass sanctuary in an effort to keep up with the Baptists.
All of this costs money. Lots of money. And we worked long days and weekends to ensure we had it all covered. But when the Jones family, next door, put in new landscaping, it seemed like we had better do it too. And we shopped around and found a service that employed illegal aliens for $5/hr, and that is how we afforded it all. And then we put in a pool out back, which of course meant we needed an 8 ft. fence instead of the 6 ft. fence we had at first. And that seemed to cut into our giving at church a bit for about a year, but when the pastor delivered a rousing sermon on tithing, we managed to get that back on track.
But then there was the sex. And isn’t that why you go to so much trouble to get the money? You want a hot wife, no? She wants a rich man! (I know that.) But then the first wife and I didn’t work out so well, so I had to leave the first house to her and start again. But fortunately the business took off a couple years after that, and I got a trophy wife and a bigger house.
The ex-wife and I still go to the same church, but we can no longer tolerate each other as a family, so at least I only have to see her once a week. Meanwhile I am getting a good deal out of the hot, young thing I traded up for. Except that I need Viagra to keep her happy, and well, she is just way more energetic than me. And I am really not into the same music and all. So, I guess as long as I am confessing… I might as well admit that I spend a lot of sexual energy on the internet and cable TV. Have you seen those ads for the sex toys they send to your house in discreet packaging? Well, its true.
And my wife… well… she does seem a bit obsessed with her appearance, alright. The shoe rack in her walk in closet is enormous. I can’t count that high. And her vanity is full of high end cosmetics. She is planning for surgery to fix her neck and nose next spring. Personally, I think she looks great, but the pool boy made a remark about it to her, and she can’t let it go. In fact, come to think of it, he seems a bit aloof around me since she brought that up. And well, actually, I did have a tryst with that babysitter one night a few years ago. (She was eighteen, I am pretty sure.) So, I really can’t complain about it.
You know what? That’s enough about sex. I will get in trouble if I tell all…. Any confession I make about myself implicates others who don’t want to be outed.
Finally, I will confess my worship of power. And I can’t help but think of my three-car garage right off the top. Yeah, I usually drive the 4X4, even though it’s a gas guzzler and even though there are no trails or mountains between home and work. But we have a classic Corvette under a cover in the third stall. That thing is a treasure. I got it up to 134 mph once. That’s power!
But really, the ironic thing is that we have a “Welcome” mat at our front door. But it lies really. It lies because the little home security sign in the flower bed lets you know that you are, in fact, not really welcome. Again, I think of those guest rooms going empty night after night while Jesus sleeps on the streets, and I wonder if a homeless person walked by my house, what would suggest they are welcome here? Because the “Welcome” mat rings a little hollow, huh?
We have a flag pole out in the front yard too. Yeah, we blend our Christianity with our patriotism and fly the flag of apple pie and American freedom. Ole Glory brings a tear to my eye, even when Jesus can’t. We even sacrificed a child to
Moloch, I mean, homeland security, when he joined the United States Marine Corps. We mix the humility of Jesus carrying a cross with American Pride as if the two belong together, and thus we worship at the altar of power with all we’ve got.
And honestly, that 8 ft. fence turns our castle into a fortress, really. And we protect the place with a Glock 9 mil, security cameras, and a security service with a 4 minute response time. Yeah, when it comes to owning a home, we definitely worship at the altar of power.
Rich Man and Lazarus
In Luke 16, we get the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (the beggar at the rich man’s gate). They both die and enter judgment appropriate to their lives. If the rich man had taken a page from Oscar Schindler, then maybe – just maybe – he could have redeemed himself. But when he passes the point of no return, he begs that he might send word back to his brothers who are still living in the excesses of wealth. He is not given that chance, but in this post, I am given the chance he was not.
There are sins that, though not inherent to it, go with home-owning like peanut butter and chocolate. Being a home-owning Christian in middle America is ripe with idolatry. I will come clean, finally, and confess, that I have done wrong. And if I, like Oscar Schindler, can come to my senses and measure the car in lives lost, I find that I have been a murderer who can only throw myself at the mercy of the King. And if there is still time, maybe – just maybe – I can move into the House of God.
In My Father’s House there are many mansions (John 14:2). Oh, how I long to go there. Oh Jerusalem, our feet shall stand within thy gates! (Psalm 122:2).
What if, and I am just spit-balling here, what if the house I live in is God’s house after all? What if he is the Master of the house where I live? Is such a thing possible? Oh, how blessed I would be! What would it look like if that grand place were His and not mine at all???