Verbum Domini

First God then Your Goods

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You’ve probably seen this Farside cartoon. With the sun rising, a man sits on the edge of his bed and, still half asleep, stares at a giant poster tacked on his wall. It reads “First pants, THEN …

You’ve probably seen this Farside cartoon. With the sun rising, a man sits on the edge of his bed and, still half asleep, stares at a giant poster tacked on his wall. It reads “First pants, THEN your shoes.” It is important to get a good start. It is important to do things in the right order.

Reading the Bible, starting with Genesis, we find that God considers his creation good. This is the first thing God wants us to know: that he delights in his creation. He delights in us. The goodness of creation is also affirmed in our fist reading this weekend (Wisdom 11:22-12:2). There the sacred writer praises God because “you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made.” God stresses this truth throughout the scriptures because it is so essential. It is the first thing to know. If, instead, we began with the reality of evil in the world, we wouldn’t properly understand God or ourselves. It would be the spiritual equivalent of trying to step into your pants with your shoes on: a lot of struggle and frustration but no progress. Just as one cannot begin their day without pants, so one cannot begin a life with God without knowing that he loves what he created.

Delighting in the goodness of creation is one of the great joys of being a creature. Yet our enjoyment of the created world should always lead us back to God. Our delight should unite with his. Furthermore, God himself should be the first cause of our joy, for he is the Good, the source of all other goods. However, we often get this backwards, loving creation more than the creator (putting shoes on before pants). The result is a lot of frustration.

In our gospel this weekend (Lk 19:1-10), Zacchaeus has made the mistake of loving creation first. In his case, it was love of money. In the gospel scene, we witness him reorder his love. He takes off his shoes (his love of money), puts on his pants (his love of God), and then puts his shoes back on (a proper use of money).

Zacchaeus wants to receive Jesus. But before he can receive God he knows he has to reorder things: “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” He takes off the shoes of greed and, putting on his pants, he hears “Today salvation has come to this household.” Now, putting on his shoes (his money), his attitude has changed. Now he orders it to God by benefiting the poor and reestablishing justice.