We live in a society that values productivity. We are becoming increasingly concerned about efficiency. But is there a place for wastefulness in life? I was reading through the sermons of Paul Tillich in preparing a homily for the wedding I'm doing this weekend. And I came across this word. Perhaps it will resonate with you.
The history of mankind is the history of men and women who wasted themselves and were not afraid to do so. They did not fear the waste of themselves, of other men, of things in the service of a new creation. They were justified, for they wasted all this out of the fullness of their hearts. They wasted as God does in nature and history, in creation and salvation. The monsters of nature to which Jahweh points in His answer to Job -- what are they but expressions of the divine abundance? Luther's God, who acts heroically and without rules -- is He not the wasteful God who creates and destroys in order to create again? Has not Protestantism lost a a great deal by losing the wasteful self-surrender of the saints and the mystics? Are we not in danger of a religious and moral utilitarianism which always asks for the reasonable purpose -- the same question as that of the disciples in Bethany? There is no creativity, divine or human, without the holy waste which comes out of the creative abundance of the heart and does not ask, "what use is this?" [Paul Tillich, "Holy Waste," in The New Being, (Scribners, 1955), p. 48].
To many in society the arts, music, even religion is wasteful. It's not productive. It's not immediately relevant. But without these gifts of God, are we not impoverished? Is it possible that we are losing our ability to let loose the "creative abundance of the heart"? Perhaps our fear of waste comes from our embrace of a theology or ideology of scarcity. But does such a vision come from a God, whom Tillich describes as the "wasteful God"?