This past week I have repeatedly found myself driving around parts of L.A. that are a bit unfamiliar. Saturday I wound my way through the hills up to Rancho Palos Verdes; Sunday we drove to two different residences in Hollywood. And last night I ventured out through the hills and canyons of the Valley. In each of these places, I was overwhelmed by one thing: the sheer volume of luxury vehicles around me. And it wasn’t the standard L.A. black Mercedes fare: I was surrounded by Bentleys and Maseratis and Ferraris and Rolls Royces (and the really crazy Mercedes that cost an absolute fortune).
Getting gas in the Valley last night, I found myself sorely out of place in our dirty, black, 1994 Nissan Altima. Moments before, a white Rolls had been parked where my car sat filling, and it was a car straight out of a music video: totally pimped out, unlike anything I had ever seen on the streets. The three young men gathered around the car were laughing and smiling beneath the fluorescent lights.
Or on Sunday, it was the black Mercedes in front of us: the kind that makes you turn your head and stare. I was just beginning to take in the glamor of the car when another one, almost identical to it, drove up beside it, and then raced off. And in that moment the stop and stare standout became unoriginal.
As I mentioned earlier, I have been struck recently by the by and large disbelief I think most of us have that the Beatitudes as recorded by the gospel writers could actually be true. I remember the giant uproar caused by some comments made by Tony Campolo many years ago regarding whether or not Christians should own luxury vehicles: he was uninvited to conferences after that and had speaking engagements canceled. Communities that genuinely witness to belonging to a kingdom where the least are the greatest are simply and sadly not what most people think of when they consider the face of Christianity.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.”
We are the rich; the well fed; the laughing. Can we really hear these words and say with belief: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”