Sitting here with the windows and doors open on a warm evening listening to sheep and lambs in the distance, quite a pleasant sound instead of traffic noise.
While on holiday in Wanaka recently, the abundance of overt wealth and expensive SUVs being driven around got me wondering how some folks can end up with so much money?
A well paying job obviously helps, I recently searched on the internet to see how my own salary compared to what is possible and came away rather demoralised! Yet salary alone is not the way to make lots of money. Business acumen, avoiding debt, high return investments, and the real estate market are all proven paths to riches.
So my envious heart jumped to wondering how I could enjoy part of the pie being so lavishly consumed by the wealthy. How could I generate a better income?
Most of the really high paying jobs are beyond my reach, even those on oil rigs or mines (no doubt to my wife’s great relief!). We have no spare cash to invest, and with my erratic shift roster a part-time job is not practical. After a few days greedily dreaming of get-rich-quick schemes the practical realities of life bit back, deflating my hunger for riches somewhat.
In this slightly covetous, mildly envious and dejected state of mind I read Deuteronomy 8:11–20 in which God warns the Israelites against comparing themselves with the nations around them. This passage has always helped me plot a course through life and is a timely corrective to my recent straying in heart from what is of true importance:
Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.
(Deuteronomy 8:17–19 ESV)
All I have is due to God’s blessing. My financial debts are the result of my own poor choices at various times. Yet even the ability to do my job and earn an income of adequate proportions to sustain my family comes directly from God, regardless of how hard the work may seem to me. Even more importantly, these verses recalibrate my thinking to see that not only is God the source of my material blessings, He is the only source of ultimate meaning or satisfaction.
As Paul points out to a young pastor:
godliness with contentment is great gain,
(1 Timothy 6:6 ESV)
In fact, Paul’s exhortation in verses 7–12 of 1 Timothy chapter 6 sum up well why I was never destined to be a rich man once I began taking the Bible seriously! It is good advice and fleeing the love of money to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness and to fight the good fight of faith is the best way I could invest my life (and the best way you could invest yours).
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11–13 ESV)
For my children to be content with what they have is much harder than it was for me at their ages. They are subjected to an unending stream of stuff, food, experiences and entertainment that simply did not exist when I was a kid.
There is big money to be made from targeting children as consumers, and it is generally easier to convince a child than an adult that this next new thing will bring happiness. There are people out there greedily wanting money.
They are happy to use our kids in order to get it.
A learned state of heart
Learning to be content is a battle for all of us. From outside ourselves there will always be more to have, while arising from within is a constant stream of desires. These may both be neutral, but we are naturally primed to be always wanting more than we have.
Contentment is learned. It has to be learned from God because the world does not want us to be content – economics depends on our dissatisfaction!
Ask God to give your children contentment and for yourself also. Pray that we parents will learn how to be content so our kids have examples to follow.
But godliness with contentment is great gain, 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 will be content.
(1 Timothy 6:6–8 ESV)
Download the prayer prompts:
Eventually the only thing remaining that is good for my soul is what God has done.
Fortunately my wife realizes this before I and arranges for us all to get away for a weekend.
Forty-five minutes up the road to a simple little cottage, the legacy of a lady who lived a hundred years. Now we sit in the sun room of her little cottage by the sea, soaking up sunlight and beauty.
Why do we need to escape to a little cottage by the sea when that is where we already live?
We go to a cottage that is even smaller than our own, even closer to the sea. It has less stuff in it, no computer, and does not come with our schedule or agendas attached. We need a break from the life we have made for ourselves.
So in our earthly tents we stay in a borrowed house. Just a little family together with the little we need for a few days and the book God wrote, enjoying the world He made.
Then we come back ‘home’, to our house (borrowed from the bank!), to live in the world and trying to remember we are not of the world. To this we are called, and then when He is ready He will call us each home.
Better is a little with the fear of the LORD
than great treasure and trouble with it.
(Proverbs 15:16 ESV)
Gifts I have noticed this week:
576) Birdsong at dawn.
577) At home sick with youngest daughter watching Sleeping Beauty together.
578) Blue skies after two weeks of gray.
579) A weekend break away.
580) Rainbow in the sink!
581) Getting away from our usual routine.
582) Getting away from my usual time-wasting computer habits.
583) Excited, hyped-up children.
584) All being together as a family.
585) Holiday cottage reminding me of my grandparents.
586) Realizing how poor some of my ancestors were.
587) Waking up to birdsong and beauty.
588) Pottery coffee mug.
590) Peaceful walk on Moeraki beach.
591) Enormous ocean calmness.
592) Making sand mountains with my son.
593) Him stomping the mountain down!
594) Persistent dog with a stick.
595) A warm wind for drying washing.
596) Reminders of the need for, and power of, praying.
I took a different route home on Thursday evening to pick up our car from the mechanic. Because it was not my usual routine I noticed things differently, like the people I passed looking wearied and beaten down as if they had barely survived the day’s work. The sky was gray and people seemed gray as well. Most appeared to be barely dragging themselves along, though the few customers in the Apple shop were slightly dreamy while drooling over shiny new gadgets. The most animated were those leaving shops clasping newly purchased joys and the men excitedly embracing mid-life crises in the motorbike shop.
All this got me thinking of how we give the best hours of our lives to work and the resultant weary selves that we bring home to our families and to God (see Ecclesiastes 2:22-23). I know that my family get the remaining energy leftover from my days at work, then God gets the scraps after that.
Jesus calls us who are burdened to come to Him for rest (Matthew 11:28-30), when He saw people looking harassed and helpless He had compassion upon them (Matthew 9:36). The compassion of Jesus is not a useless ‘feeling sorry’ for people, in the gospels He is described as teaching, healing, feeding and even raising the dead out of compassion (Mark 6:34, Matthew 14:14, Mark 8:2, Luke 7:12-15).
I can state with confidence that Jesus has compassion for you (1 Timothy 2:3-5, Matthew 12:20) and just as He did very real things for those upon whom He had compassion during His incarnation, He will also out of compassion do what you need of Him. What you need of Jesus is unlikely to be more stuff or a better job, it is more likely to be the transformed heart and mind wrought by the Holy Spirit, grace in weakness, contentment in adversity, and fellowship with Him.
Perhaps you are like me and think, “chocolate and more money would make me feel better though.” Certainly they do, while the supply lasts and effects of overindulgence haven’t kicked in. God gives us Himself and the promise to always be with us (Matthew 28:20), on the surface this doesn’t seem to help my weariness after a hard day or the sense of drudgery and pointlessness that can engulf me at times. However, when I find the headspace to ponder the meaning that Jesus gives my life, that drudgery and pointlessness melt away.