Psalm 23 as Counter-Cultural Wisdom

Of late, two great interests of mine have been 1) working with people to help make the Bible more “useful” and available to us in our daily lives and 2) helping all of us think about money from the perspective of faith.

On the “usefulness” of the Bible
I know this subject can be a bit tricky. I don’t want to reduce the value of the Bible to self-help advice. Rather, what I mean is that if we don’t find ourselves thinking about the biblical stories in relation to our daily lives, or if the only time with think about the Bible at all is on Sunday, then I don’t see why we’ll keep coming to church. I mean, pretty much all we do at church is talk about the Bible – we read from it, preach on it, the hymns and worship service overflow with biblical images and themes – and if we never think of the Bible any other time, or we don’t find any of what we do at church helpful to us during the week, I just think we’ll eventually find something else to do with that time on Sunday morning.

On money
My consistent question over the last year or so has been as follows: If we believe that money doesn’t make us happy, why do we act – in terms of our spending – like it does? The answer I’ve come to is that we live in a culture that promotes the idea that money does indeed buy happiness and so actively encourages us to spend whether we can afford it or not.

These two interests – connecting the Bible to daily life and combating the cultural impulse to “shop ‘till you drop” came together in a request from Peter Wallace, President and CEO of Day1. Day1 is the successor to the Protestant Hour and is particularly well known for posting weekly sermons following the lectionary from preachers all over the country. More recently, Peter and his crew have created and posted blogs, interviews, and videos to encourage people in their daily faith. Last spring I was in Atlanta to record a sermon and interview when Peter asked if I’d also offer a video devotion on a favorite passage. I chose Psalm 23 and decided to look at it from the point of view of our economic lives and, in particular, this question of living in a culture that depends on us wanting more and more.

You can see the results below. I’ll be interested in hearing about your own strategies for combating the cultural impulse and pressure to buy happiness. And in case you’re interested, from time to time I actually take my own advice and read Psalm 23 before going to the mall…and it helps!

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