Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Will Jesus Buy Me a Double Wide?" - A Review

by Rev. Laura Barclay

Recently, my pastor recommended the book Will Jesus Buy Me a Double Wide?: ('Cause I Need More Room for My Plasma TV) by Karen Spears Zacharias. I was initially confused by the eye-catching title, but my pastor insisted it was a great book for Sunday Schools and book clubs, as well as ministers and laity. So he let me borrow his copy and I proceeded to delve into the book, divided into small vignettes of people the author interviewed or had a relationship, many of whom are kept anonymous with titular pseudonyms like “The Evangelist” or “The Redhead.” In some way, every one of these stories had something to say about wealth and poverty and politely poked hundreds of holes in the prosperity gospel, which she likens to a “golden calf theology” (29).

Zacharias interviews Sister Schubert (yes, the maker of those delicious roles), who values the money her business has brought her, but she believes that as a Christian she has a responsibility to “do the right thing with whatever [God has] given us” (43). So, she established a foundation and built an orphanage in the Ukraine, because the government-run facilities are low on resources for children. She then adopted a son with a disability whose parents had been murdered. Sister Schubert lives on a small amount of what she has and uses much of the rest for causes in which she’s actively involved.

She interviews The Marine, a once-rich business man who had a conversion experience that led him to take a vow of poverty and live among the poor. The most touching part of his story comes when talking to friend of his named Lena, who was about to have her power cut off by the electric company. He says, “Tell you what I’ll do Lena. I can’t keep the power company from turning your lights off, but I will come sit with you in the dark after they turn them off.” He tells Zacharias, “I think that’s what Jesus does—he sits with us in the dark (133).”

Zacharias tells stories of The Mogul who lost everything because his greed destroyed everything he owned, The Beautician who longs for wealth, and The Redhead who died too young of cancer and left behind a husband and children, but no regrets. The reader finds in the genuineness of her stories an appropriate view of abundance before God and our brothers and sisters in Christ. In exploring the nature of oneself in relationship to money, we find spiritual truths older than Scripture. Jesus’ parable of the rich man comes to life in The Evangelist, who believes she’s entitled to her millions and that God wants us all to be rich. She wants to follow God as long as it’s a personally beneficial experience.

The image of God hinted at in the vignettes is not a God who controls our wealth or poverty, but one who promises to be present with us in the darkest and lightest hours of our life. If we follow this God, what does that mean in relationship to our portfolio? It’s not, as Bernie Madoff cohort Michael Bienes suggests, that his stealing money was so easy because “God wanted us to have this…God gave us this” (200). We must follow God and not money, but be responsible with what we’re given. As Zacharias points out in her introduction, God doesn’t reward us with money or take it from us when we’ve done something wrong. God, as The Marine points out, just wants to “sit with us in the dark.”

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