“For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” Jesus, Matthew 25:29
Recently, as Salem was preparing to give an “All About Me” speech to her class, we got to wondering what Elewononi means. I’m so thankful that I can reach Uncle Kola so easily via WhatsApp.
He explained that in Owé Elewononi means “the one who has wealth is surrounded by many people.” He noted that when the British translated the name they chose the word “money” instead of wealth.
Empires tend to measure wealth in terms of money, property, resources, gross national product. Believing that one needs to be surrounded by money to be successful can set people up for a life of hard work with little joy.
But in the alternative culture of God’s realm abundance is meant to be shared. And that sharing includes laughter, music, stories, dance and compassion. The more we share our wealth with others, the more wealth accumulates. This understanding about wealth as opposed to money clarifies what Jesus meant by “those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance.”
My mother’s parents knew about this kind of wealth. Dedicating their lives to the Methodist ministry during the Great Depression meant cold homes heated by wood that Grandpa had to chop down in between sermons and pastoral visits. It meant that he had to help his “city girl” prepare supper by killing and dressing the live chickens their congregation offered them instead of cash. Yet they knew joy of sharing a picnic together, camping and hiking through the natural beauty of state and county parks, laughing over board games and card games and snuggling together to read favorite stories out loud. They passed all this wealth on to their family.
My husband describes holidays like Christmas with his family in Kabba. This was not a day of disposable trees surrounded by piles of gifts for everyone. What gave them great joy was simply being gathered with friends and family and celebrating life.
Dr. Seuss shared the same wisdom in his classic tale “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Waking to find all their presents, decorations and every “roast beast” gone, the Whos still could, join hands and sing for joy. True wealth cannot be stolen.
What wealth do you have?
When have you gotten caught up in joyless activity for the sake of money?
Which people surround your life? Are there people with whom you wish to share more of your wealth?
Sarah Mount Elewononi is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. A member of the New England Annual Conference for over 20 years, Sarah now resides with her family in greater Pittsburgh. Sarah completed the requirements for her doctorate from Boston University on Christmas Eve 2014. She worked with Dr. Karen Westerfield Tucker and Dr. Nancy Ammerman to better understand worship and change - both how repeated acts of worship change us, and how and why worship changes whether we want it too or not, and why we can be resistant to that change. Her dissertation was focused on Methodist worship at New England camp meetings in the 19th Century. Sarah is a member of the North American Academy of Liturgy, the Order of St. Luke and the Girl Scouts. Currently she leads her daughters' Brownie and Daisy troop and teaches preschool three afternoons a week. She also teaches a variety of United Methodist Course of Study offerings in worship, theology and Biblical studies.