Are You Among the Wealthy?

wealthThe book of Proverbs is a pithy collection of wisdom that I read so I can benefit from its wise and insightful commentary on life.  As I was reading the 11th chapter this morning, a few verses caught my attention, and one in particular caused me to pause and reflect on its meaning:   One person is generous and yet grows more wealthy, but another withholds more than he should and comes to poverty.

Over the years of my life, I’ve worked with people from all walks and stations of life; some have been known for their wealth, and others have had very little of this life’s goods. It’s been my observation that some of the wealthiest have been the poorest and some of the poorest have been the wealthiest.

The difference between these people, is found in your answer to this question: Do you own your possessions or do they possess you?

Some people are like Abraham, Joseph, and Job; they are people of great wealth, but they are not hoarders.  On the other hand, some people are like King Ahab; they are never satisfied, they always want more, and they are willing to do anything to get what they want.

There’s a third group which seems to be a balance between the first two; these are the people who are content. They are found among the wealthy as well as the poor, and they are content because of the content of their life.

The best way I can explain this is to quote the Apostle Paul: I have learned to be content in any circumstance. I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing.  I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11-13).

When the content of Paul’s life changed, he learned to be content.  He quit chasing after religious and worldly acclaim and learned the real treasure in life is found in Jesus Christ. This radical shift in his thinking changed his perspective and his deepest longings were satisfied.

You may never be wealthy by the world’s standards, but you can enjoy riches that pay eternal dividends. You can discover true wealth by doing what Paul did: You can invest in the lives of others by:

  • Being generous
  • Showing mercy, with cheerfulness
  • Loving without hypocrisy
  • Rejoicing in hope; being patient in affliction; and being persistent in prayer
  • Sharing with the saints in their needs
  • Pursuing hospitality.

Based on the list above, how wealthy are you?

Olympics: Gold or Goldless

goldWhen many of the Olympic athletes leave Rio, they will begin a new life.  Some will leave having achieved their dreams and winning either a gold, silver, or bronze medal; others will leave disappointed with themselves and their poor performance; and, there will be some who leave with a sense of contentment even though they did not win.

Contentment is a unique commodity: Money can’t buy it; poverty doesn’t provide it; and neither winning or losing can guarantee it.

For some people, contentment is hard to find.  This is because they’ve never matured beyond the infantile attitude of thinking they’re the center of the universe.  They were born wanting more attention, drier diapers, and a bottle that provided a never-ending supply of milk.  As they grew older they wanted the fastest car, the shiniest wheels, and the finest leather interior.

The more is better attitude never understands that having the “best” and being “blest” are not one and the same; one may provide fame and fortune, but it’s the content of the other leads to a life of contentment.

The Apostle Paul discovered the secret of contentment: I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. ~Philippians 4:11-12

If you want to live a life of contentment, I suggest that you start by:

  • Seeking God’s will. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ. ~Philippians 3:8
  • Leaning on God: I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. ~Philippians 4:13
  • Trusting God’s promise: The peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:7
  • Living with an attitude of gratitude: in everything a give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~I Thessalonians 5:18
  • Learning to take an eternal perspective on life: Joseph said, You meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people. ~Genesis 50:20

If, as Paul said, “godliness with contentment is a great gain,” what is a life without godliness and void of contentment?

The Good Samaritan: Pay Day Some Day

Good SamaritanWhile I was doing a little reading last night, I found my way to Proverbs 19:17: “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lordand he will repay him for his deed (ESV).”  The Message provides this rendering of that verse:  “Mercy to the needy is a loan to God,and God pays back those loans in full.”

After reading this verse, a couple of questions came to my mind:

  • If God repays those who are generous to the poor, how does he reward those who are miserly?
  • Is this verse to be interpreted in just a physical sense or is their also a spiritual significance as in the poverty of the nonbeliever?

My musing led me to think about how this verse could be applied to the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.  In this story a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho was robbed and left badly beaten.  This man was seen by three different individuals:

  • The thieves saw him and said:  “What’s yours is ours, so we’ll just take it.”
  • The priest saw him and said:  “What’s mine is mine, and I won’t share it.”
  • The Samaritan said:  “What’s mine is God’s, so I’ll bless you with it.”

Which of these three individuals embraced the principle of Proverbs 19:17? Which one of the them showed mercy, exhibited kindness, and manifested generosity?  How do you respond when you see someone in need?

Whoever is kind to the poor is lending to the Lord
    the benefit of his gift will return to him in abundance.

Proverbs 19:17 (ISV).

Did I Just Lie?

I took two steps, then I asked myself: “Did I just lie?” While I was walking to my truck, I met a young man in the parking and asked: “How are you doing?” He replied: “Fine, how are you?” With a big smile, I replied” “Great!”

I took the two steps, and I thought to myself: “I’m sick at my stomach and I have a splitting headache, and I feel lousy, so am I great?”

It only took another second of reflection before my smile grew larger, and here’s why:
• I having a loving wife and a good family.
• I have a job, a roof over my head, and I have more than enough food to eat.
• I’ve never been exposed to Ebola or Malaria, and I don’t have cancer.
• I serve a loving God who has saved me through the sacrificial death of His Son.

I’m not great because of anything I’ve done or because of who I am; however, in comparison to much of the world, my circumstances are great.

***805 million people – or one in nine people in the world – do not have enough to eat.
***98% of the world’s undernourished people live in developing countries.
***66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone.
***Every 10 seconds, a child dies from hunger-related diseases.
***1.7 billion people lack access to clean water.
***2.3 billion people suffer from water-borne diseases each year.

“Young man, I’m great. Thanks for asking.”