The value of Kenosis

I have been reading the Tao Te Ching for a number of years, as I also read other non-Christian religious writings because I learn much and have found that it enriches my own spirituality as a Christian. Lately I have been considering our plight in this economic down turn and our capitalistic culture in the US. For us more is better. The more you have, the greater your worth, and the more influence and power you have.

But in reality this is diametrically opposed to our Christian faith and is warned against in many of the other religious traditions outside of Christianity. Funny though, in the Christian Church we find ways to spiritualize or reconcile all our stuff so that we can be at peace with our culture and our lust for more stuff. Please don’t be offended at these words because I am not necessarily talking about anyone other than myself. I would have to say that I have spent more of my life “wanting” than being “content” with who I am and what I possess.

Yet if we are to choose to live like Christ (my faith) or the Buddha or some other spiritual leader, we have to wrestle with the fact that the teachings from all these faiths bemoan the lust for and gathering of stuff. It says in Philippians 2 that Jesus “emptied” ( a Greek word from which we derive the theological term kenosis) himself and in the Gospels we see that he possessed hardly any worldly treasures. Indeed the apostles, too, possessed little that would be considered riches in the world.

Likewise in the Tao Te Ching I find this little jewel:

Thirty Spokes join one hub.

The wheel’s use comes from emptiness.

Clay is fired to make a pot.

The pot’s use comes from emptiness

Windows and doors are cut to make a room.

The room’s use comes from emptiness.


Having leads to profit,

Not having leads to use.

The question we Americans don’t want to wrestle with or answer is whether having less is more inclined to permit us to feel contentment and to be more useful to God and others? I think if we really examine our own hearts and minds we would say that “stuff” doesn’t bring happiness. Do we want contentment or stuff?

I for one, want move toward having and owning less but being more useful and content. That is my goal this year.


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