Better is a little with righteousness, than vast revenues without justice. (Proverbs 16:8)
Proverbs offers us wisdom for daily living – how to live a spiritual life pleasing to God in this world of the Fall. However, these aphorisms can seem “unAmerican” to some. For example, the proverb quoted above favors a spartan lifestyle over wealth and prosperity if the simpler lifestyle is lived righteously. If wealth is gained with no concern for justice, then it is not blessed by God (for example wealth gained by enslaving others or because of slave labor or child abuse, by cheating laborers of their wages, or wealth obtained by criminal activity). Sometimes it seems to me in America today that wealth is treated as the highest good, and as long as people are able to accumulate wealth, one shouldn’t be too concerned about justice or righteousness. Trickle down economic theories seem to embrace this idea – as long as the people at the top of the pyramid are getting richer, no matter how they do it, everyone benefits in some way. Then the wealthy become society’s ‘holy heroes’ who everyone else wants to imitate (or elect to public office). In America today, too frequently it seems that most of the heroes people want to emulate are those who are rich, no matter how they got their money. In the world of the Fall in America wealth often determines and defines success and morality, becoming the way evaluate any human being’s ‘worth’. Get rich quick schemes and promises abound.
Christian morality, however, is based in ideas of a simpler lifestyle and on mutual care for one another. Our Lord Jesus taught us to pray: “Give us this day our daily bread…” (Matthew 6:11; Luke 11: 3). He didn’t tell us to ask God to give us a daily banquet or daily gourmet meals – rather, we are to seek just enough to live on. We are not supposed to be greedily grabbing as much as we can to meet our gourmandizing or gluttonous appetites. Constant consumerism (“Get all the gusto you can out of life.’) is not what Jesus envisioned for Christians. Great Lent gives Orthodox a chance to live the Gospel lifestyle through its food fasting, if they don’t turn it into a search for the best gourmet Lenten meal. As the Proverb said, “Better is a little with righteousness“. Perhaps, rather than focus on what you eat, just eat less, or eat simply, or if you are more calculating, figure out your caloric need and eat that but no more. Find out what those with limited food budgets can eat, and imitate their food choices. Then donate the rest of your food budget to an organization that helps feed the poor, or volunteer to help serve food to those in need.
There is great gain in godliness with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs. But as for you, man of God, shun all this; aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. (1 Timothy 6:6-11)
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never fail you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
Using cookbooks to generate gourmet Lenten meals goes against the spirituality of Proverbs and the New Testament. What we should be doing is learning to live with less things which satisfy us and with more righteousness/holiness. If God blesses us with more, this should lead to our thankfulness and increased charity towards others. That would be a more spiritual fast.