Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

To Be Filled

Written by: on February 20, 2014

I greatly dislike ordering a pop or soda from a restaurant. (I refrain from using the word “hate” because good Christian people might be reading this, but I lean strongly in that direction). Certainly the cost is a factor, and in the infrequent times that I do eat outside of our home, I tend to make simple calculations, that almost rob me of the capacity to enjoy the meal…almost not quite. The calculations are usually put into some sort of mathematical expression that relates to the percentage this outing is taking away from the next global mission opportunity or the capacity to help someone in need. Obviously, I digress…


The real reason I don’t like ordering drinks at a restaurant is that they generally put a disproportionate amount of ice into the cup compared to the amount of beverage. Because the glass is filled with ice, there is less room for my drink.  It would be better to empty the ice and then fill the glass full of pop or soda, in my estimation.

You can only fill what is empty. Otherwise all you’re doing is topping up, piling on or squeezing in.  When it comes to ordering a glass of soda, with ice, the end result is a watered down version of the original product. It takes a promised experience of refreshment and exchanges it for a cold but disappointing experience.  We want the best of both, however over time, it is possible that we have come to settle for less. Our tastes have been adjusted, our aspirations lowered and our capacity to differentiate has been relativized. We think we like our drinks this way because it’s the only way they are being presented.

Reading Max Weber’s, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, reminds me of ordering a drink of pop at a restaurant, as it allows us to consider the glass of the Christian’s conduct in relationship to capitalism throughout the ages. To what degree are our lives filled with ascetic call of God compared to the amount of capitalistic “ice” in our glass. Is it possible that we have grown accustomed to the taste of our current mixture and have forgotten the sweet savour of the original recipe?

For Weber, the question isn’t an “if”’ there has been an unbalanced mixture. He acknowledges that no one is going to just order a glass of ice. Followers of Jesus have always had this understanding that our faith must look different even in a capitalistic culture: “For that the conception of money-making as an end in itself to which people were bound, as a calling, was contrary to the ethical feelings of whole epochs, it is hardly necessary to prove.” (p.31)

Rather the question is more along the lines of “to what degree”? Weber traces through the history of Christianity, from the monastic movements through the rise of denominationalism, and their own perspectives, to help us understand the spectrum across which Christians have interacted with the growing spirit of capitalism.

“Christian asceticism, at first fleeing from the world into solitude (monasticism)…Now it strode into the market-place of life, slammed the door of the monastery behind it, and undertook to penetrate just that daily routine of life with its methodicalness, to fashion it into a life in the world, but neither of nor for this world. ” (p.94)

Across the board there would be no disagreement on the fact that neither the monk, the puritan, the Calvinist, the Methodist or the Catholic would order only, a glass full of the icy wealth of capitalistic gain. They find their common place in this overarching view:

Wealth is thus bad ethically only in so far as it is a temptation to idleness and sinful enjoyment of life, and its acquisition is bad only when it is with the purpose of later living merrily and without care. But as a performance of duty in a calling it is not only morally permissible, but actually enjoined. (p.101)

Which leads to the question: “How much ice should you deny yourself?”

The pursuit of pleasure, entertainment and leisure do not simply impact our day to day lives, but it also impacts the way in which we steward our assets as we look toward the future. Is it possible that at the table of our culture we have grown used to having our drinks with ice? Have we watered down the discipline of self-denial that is our widely understood ascetic character?

Jesus made a statement at one point: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself…” Again few would argue against the importance of these words, shared in response to the apostle Peter’s confession that Jesus was in fact the “The Christ of God” (Luke 9:18-27).

Speaking from my western cultural view (specifically from a southwestern Ontario, Canadian view), it has become relatively easy, in comparison to the machine that is our capitalistic evolution, to be content with a level of denial that differentiates me from those around me, and yet it still can fall short of the call and example set before us.

But Jesus didn’t ask us to only deny ourselves, he also asked us to “…pick up our cross daily and follow him.” It’s not just a decrease in the amount of ice or lemon slice that is significant. It is also significant to consider how much we can be filled, how often we desire to be filled and to what extent does God desires to fill us.

The question that we need to ask is “How much do you want to be filled?”

That’s the example given to us. Jesus denied himself utterly and completely and in so doing was utterly and completely filled by the power of God to relentlessly pursue the purpose of God for His earthly life. Both parts of the question are important for us to understand: self-denial and submission to God’s filling power:

You should have the same attitude toward one another

that Christ Jesus had,

who though he existed in the form of God

did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped,

but emptied himself

by taking on the form of a slave,

by looking like other men,

and by sharing in human nature.

He humbled himself,
by becoming obedient to the point of death

—even death on a cross!

As a result God highly exalted him

and gave him the name
that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus
 every knee will bow

—in heaven and on earth and under the earth—

and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord

to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11 (New English Translation)

Just because every establishment serves their soda with ice doesn’t mean it has to be that way. We have to be intentional, disciplined and discerning to enjoy the intended ascetic benefits of the cool refreshment we desire. Hmmm…maybe today, I’ll order a glass of water.

About the Author

Deve Persad

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