Sticky Fingers

“Sticky fingers” is our term for a propensity to help oneself to other people’s property. Many who scrupulously abide by the commandment “Thou shalt not steal” nonetheless have “sticky fingers” in the spiritual aspects of life; they lay unmitigated personal claim to what God offers them in trust and emotionally “glue” their hands around it. These are the people consumed with worry about losing their material goods, their health, or their status; the people who develop willful deafness to God’s hints they might be better off letting go of something; the people who wear themselves out chasing security in the form of money and pleasure. As with many a shoplifter, when they’re finally “caught” by the failure of their safeguards, the severity of the consequences is a dismaying shock.

Jesus once met a man who had done his best to live a good life and wanted, or thought he wanted, to inherit the blessings of eternity. “Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth” (Mk. 10:21-22). Jesus didn’t try to stop him. But He must have looked after the man with sad eyes of His own, before He “said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!'” (Mk. 10:23)

C. S. Lewis touched on the same theme when he said, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” But since earth is much easier to see, most of us prefer to zero in on the obvious target. There may be more than pure selfishness involved. We know we don’t deserve eternal life; we know we can’t attain it on our own; and we can’t quite believe God loves us enough to help. So rather than risk aiming high and failing spectacularly, we settle for lesser goals which at least are attainable. Not only do we glue our fingers to material goods, we glue our feet to the ground.

And all the while God loves us and awaits our permission for Him to set us free. As is recorded in the postlude to the rich man’s story (Mk. 10:26-27): “The disciples were… amazed, and said… ‘Who then can be saved?’

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.'”

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