Watching the Occupy Wall Street protests, I’ve had a range of reactions. I’ve laughed at protesters walking the streets dressed up like zombies. I’ve also sympathized with those who have no jobs. And I’ve joined those protesting in shaking my head in disappointment at what a culture of greed has wrought in our country.
However, watching this protest unfold, it powerfully illuminates the discontent soul of collective America. We might be in the 99 percent, but we would gladly trade our protest signs and zombie makeup for the 1 percent’s penthouse and luxury sedan faster than you can say “Occupy Wall Street.”
Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with a little social protest and standing up for the downtrodden and voiceless. In fact, it’s what Christians are supposed to do. Compassion makes the hardest of hearts tender.
But what is happening now in our country shows just how discontent we really are. We have come to a place where we think we deserve opulence. Yet for the 99 – full of many current protesters who also decry world poverty – an overwhelming majority (87 percent) remains among the top half of the world’s average GDP.
When Jesus told the parable about leaving the 99 to go after the 1, I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean to do it with what would qualify as modern-day torches and pitch forks.
The truth is we don’t need to occupy Wall Street – we need Jesus to occupy our hearts.
It’s so easy to get swept up in the images of angry people fed up with being at the bottom of the heap. Who really wants to be at the bottom of the food chain? Who really wants to take the bus to work? Who really aspires to a life of middle management?
But we need to be careful that we don’t fall prey to the siren call of our culture. The American dream we talk about so fondly has morphed into a rotting cancer that’s eating away at our souls.
“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Psalm 14:30).
The Apostle Paul talked about finding contentment in our plight in life:
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:11-13
I wish Paul elaborated on his secret. I know my own heart has felt the tug, the strong pull to pursue “stuff” over Christ – it’s human nature, but it’s a nature that is counterproductive to God’s nature. But I think I know what Paul meant – contentment is found in a life in Christ alone.
I want to protest to, but I want to protest something different. I want to protest our culture’s demand that we are entitled to a life of wealth and riches, lest it rot my soul. And I will make every effort to protest this each day by waking up and asking Jesus to occupy my sinful heart so that I might be transformed.