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By TERENCE ERBELE
Few things increase blood pressure like managing public funds. This proved true at a recent Ketchikan School Board meeting. Among the issues involved are livelihoods of teachers and staff, the best interests of our children, and how much the tax payer is willing to provide. What is fiscally responsible? What are the priorities
The Ketchikan Daily News recorded numerous quotes from the discussion. The well-known phrase, “Nickel and diming us to death,” was used. Individual nickels and dimes will rarely change the course of a person’s day. Added together, though, they can make a big difference. I know a low-income individual who watched his nickels and dimes throughout his career and retired as a multimillionaire. The opposite happens with spending small amounts on every whim even with a high income.
The same is true of habits, vices and sins. Most can recover quickly from an occasional little indulgence. It is the accumulation of these that certainly lead to death physically and/or spiritually. Investing the nickels and dimes of our time in spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting, worship attendance, Bible Study, service, giving, etc. may seem to be fruitless exercises. Added up over the course of life time they develop character and, best of all, a relationship with our Creator.
A second quote came during the conversation about red lines and green lines in the budget proposal. One person, objecting to this form of prioritizing, stated, “I want to make us whole.” In reality there is only one person who can make us whole. Wherever Jesus roamed, the blind received sight, the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, the deaf could hear, the dead were raised, good news was preached to the poor. The broken in spirit and body were made whole. The Bible is laden with references to being a new creation in Christ, reconciliation with God and soundness of mind. Restoration of our shattered lives to wholeness is what the Christian faith is about.
For reasons unknown even to ourselves, we insist on nickel and diming ourselves into brokenness and death. Suffice it to say that God wants to make us whole even more than we do. That is why Jesus came to earth, suffered and died. Better yet, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus rose from the dead proving God ability to restore all things to wholeness.
A third quote was by a School Board member: “I don’t budget on the grace of God.” My first thought is how sad. A budget is plan. You can and should count on the grace of God. Everything else is futile according to the wisest man on earth. (See Ecclesiates.) The grace of God is reliable and available to all. It is only by the grace of God one can enter the kingdom of God in the here and now as well as in the hereafter. I, for one, am grateful that I can plan on the grace of God.
One the other hand, maybe not budgeting on the grace of God is a good idea. The grace of God is infinite. There is no need to budget God’s grace because the supply is inexhaustible. Why restrict such a marvelous gift? It is greater than any sin. The Almighty lavishes mercy on all who turn to God. Recipients of this grace have the honor of sharing the love of God with everyone. By the grace of God we are given wholeness, hope, joy, peace, courage, victory over anything life imposes on us.
The Rev. W. Terence Erbele is a former pastor of the United Methodist Church.
Perspectives is a regular column sponsored and written by members of the Ketchikan Ministerial Association.