So here’s the deal and this is what you get:
The penthouse suite with world-commanding views,
The banker’s bonus and the private jet,
Control and ownership of all the news,
An ‘in’ to that exclusive one per cent,
Who know the score, who really run the show,
With interest on every penny lent
And sweeteners for cronies in the know.
A straight arrangement between me and you,
No hell below or heaven high above,
You just admit it, and give me my due,
And wake up from this foolish dream of love …
But Jesus laughed, ‘You are not what you seem.
Love is the waking life, you are the dream.’
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ (Luke 4.5 − 7)
Malcolm Guite reads today’s poem
We understand worldliness. It is the siren song that calls us to promises of glory wrapped in the façade of fame, money and power. No one is immune to its lure, and its talons pierce every aspect of our culture from our neighborhoods to the churches in which we worship. Though we understand the fabric of worldliness, we rarely speak of it and conveniently forget its contradictions to Christian life.
In The Word in the Wilderness Malcolm Guite writes:
A symptom of this amnesia, this serious spiritual malaise that afflicts our culture, can be found in our extraordinary use of the word ‘exclusive’ as a positive term! The liberal West is allegedly the most inclusive culture that has ever existed: we deploy a great deal of rhetoric about including the marginalized, and take care that everyone should use politically correct and ‘inclusive’ language. But this is, of course, just a fig leaf. One look at the advertising in any magazine or on any website, one glimpse of the commercials that saturate our airwaves, tells a different story. Any estate agent advertising residential properties (or ‘homes’ as they like to call them – as though a home was something you could sell) reveals that their favourite word is ‘exclusive’. Come and view these ‘exclusive’ flats. Or come with us on this luxurious and ‘exclusive’ holiday! And nobody asks, just who is being excluded?
When we follow and envy the glamorous people of the world we say “What a dream life that would be!” As Malcom says
It is as if the purpose of dreams is to enmesh us deeper in the tangles of getting and spending, not to lift our vision, change our perspective and give us glimpses of heaven.
What did Jesus mean when He said “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also?”
For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
Art: The Temptations of Christ, by Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510)
Fresco. Sistine Chapel
Malcolm Guite and Word in the Wilderness
Malcolm Guite is poet-priest and Chaplain of Girton College Cambridge, but he often travels round Great Britain, and to North America, to give lectures, concerts and poetry readings. For more details of these and other engagements go to his Events Page.
Photo courtesy Lancia E. Smith
For every day from Shrove Tuesday to Easter Day, the bestselling poet Malcolm Guite chooses a favourite poem from across the Christian spiritual and English literary traditions and offers incisive seasonal reflections on it.