I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.I originally found this quote on Erin's Biscotti Brain, where she had gotten the hat-tip from Inward/Outward. I've seen this quote spring up a number of places since then, and it's evidently pricked a number of consciences of their respective readers. I'm not entirely sure why, but I have, perhaps, an inkling.
Source: Wilbur Rees, Leadership, Vol. 4, No. 1
There is a medical term - prophylaxis - which (aside from the birth-control usage, which makes teenagers smirk) simply means preventative. If I step on a nail, I get a shot as a prophylactic for tetanus.
I think that many of us have had church training which presented church life - church membership, weekly worship, and other practices - as a prophylactic for Hell. Certainly I never saw my church life as "fire prevention," but more as "fire retardant." Especially in my youthful, legalistic (and wildly inaccurate) upbringing as a rule-bound Catholic, I saw everything I did - from crossing myself with holy water, to eating fish on Friday, to daily Mass, to weekly confession - as layers of fire retardant standing between me and Hell.
(I now know Catholicism differently, thankfully.)
I've come to see that somewhere between 50% and 90% of traditional American Christendom is precisely the same way. We want just enough God and just enough grace to qualify for the get-out-of-Hell-free card. I believe it's the reaction to this same minimalist idea of "$3 worth of God" that's driven every single act of renewal in the church - from the Protestant Reformation to the Wesleyan movement, to the Azusa Street revival, to Willow Creek and Saddleback, and the entire postmodern/emergent conversation.
Roaring over the mutterings of "$3 worth of God" religious minimalism is the sense of fully-on-fire, burning, sold-0ut faith. I've had that faith; I've lost it several times - and right now, I'm struggling back toward it.
I know that "on-fire" is where I want to be; not blazing and incinerating everyone around me - but burning brightly, letting "my light so shine before others that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:17, NIV). I want my faith to be bigger than that prophylactic dose of grace and salvation. I want it not only because I know it feels better there, but because God calls me there, to be present there.
I can't speak for the others who have reacted to this quote as I have. But I suspect that they either see where they are, and want to be elsewhere - or see themselves where they were, and are grateful not to be there today. Or perhaps they see that their capacity for faith might well only hold $3 worth of God today, and they see the need to open wider, to grow in capacity for faith.
That, I hope, is where I am today - a large man with a small capacity for grace, seeking to be stretched and opened wider (in a spiritual sense only, please - I'm wide enough otherwise). I can hope, anyway...