Embezzling Your Own Life
Who or what is stealing your peace? We know the usual suspects—the things that add worry, strife, and difficulty to our lives. But what if the robber-in-chief is an invisible culprit, operating behind the scenes to slowly but steadily drain peace from our lives without us noticing? What then?
Abraham Joshua Heschel’s classic work on the Sabbath stresses the importance of attitude when it comes to celebrating Sabbath.
“He who wants to enter the holiness of the day,” he says, “must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce, of being yoked to toil. He must go away from the screech of dissonant days, from the nervousness and fury of acquisitiveness and the betrayal in embezzling his own life.”1
What a striking phrase—the one about embezzling from your own life. Heschel is saying that greed causes us to betray ourselves, to do something that’s both foolish and immoral, filching riches that are meant to characterize our lives. Riches like trusting that we belong to a Father who will provide. Riches like being at peace because God is in charge. Riches like enjoying life’s simple and most satisfying pleasures.
So often we don’t recognize greed for what it is. Because so many of us have bought into a lifestyle that requires amassing more and more wealth, we may mistake greed for industriousness or even prudence, little realizing how costly our greed has become.
Like a receding tide exposing what lies beneath the surface, the recent economic downturn has shown many of us how flimsy and fragile the things we depend on really are. If you suspect that greed has been embezzling your peace, tell God you want it to stop, and ask him for the grace to change.
- Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979), 13.