Thursday, May 3, 2012

No One Likes Austerity

Last weekend the Spanish took to the streets to protest government austerity measures. Citizen reaction to austerity laws in Greece and Italy earlier this year was the same. In corporate context, austerity means cutting expenses and reducing services. No one likes austerity.

The word “austere” means to be without comforts or luxuries, connoting self-denial, self-discipline, asceticism. This week, the word “austere” took on new meaning when Altha and I visited a Greek Orthodox Monastery in the Sonora Desert. As soon as we arrived, we knew we had entered a set-apart place. We were handed a brochure which said: “Due to the sanctity of this Holy place we kindly ask that you respect the quiet and solitude of the Monastery while on the grounds.” We spoke with a young monk (from Seattle) who explained the monastic lifestyle as one refraining from worldly comforts and pleasures, so that without distractions, they might practice Christian disciplines and meditations to bring them closer to Christ.

Your first reaction may be to dismiss the ascetic lifestyle as aberrant and extreme, but single-minded devotion to Jesus is not something reserved for desert dwellers. Jesus’ life on earth and that of all who followed Him was austere. Jesus demanded singular commitment from His disciples. By leaving their nets and boats—their most valued things in life—they demonstrated the heart disposition Jesus was looking for. Why then, do we suppose, 20 centuries later, that following Jesus demands any less of us?

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