Money the Meaning of Life?

Truth is Truth wherever it’s found, I believe.

Jesus said a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. And He said it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Self proclaimed minimalist, traveler, thinker, and humanist Colin Wright has come to a similar conclusion even though as near as I can tell he doesn’t follow Jesus in the least  (far from it!) He writes:

"…minimalism shows us that … we are happy without unnecessary excess, without cars and boats and mansions and clothes and all the things of this world. Not that the things of this world are wrong or evil, it’s just that they are not the point of our lives. The point of our lives is much more complex.

The real meaning of our lives is to contribute to other people in meaningful ways, to contribute beyond ourselves." (quote)

Everything Jesus spoke was true, I believe. So to me it’s not surprising when I hear elements of His truth espoused elsewhere. I say “elements” because I don’t think the primary meaning of our lives is to contribute to others in meaningful ways (maybe that’s secondary). Our primary meaning is being in right relationship with God, I believe.

Having said that, I DO think someone looking at a follower of Jesus from the outside should observe – as a primary characteristic – him or her contributing to others in meaningful ways. Like Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Issues surrounding money are enormous. Their ramifications tenuously affect every corner of our souls and lives. For instance, the #1 reason given as cause for divorces is financial conflict, I’ve heard.

The question arises, "How much do we really need – how much is enough?" The joking answer is, "Just a little more." Why is it we always crave more? Satan tried exploiting this known weakness when tempting Jesus:

"Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” (Matthew 4:8-10)

Some of this thinking has been spurred by a real situation in my own life.  Here’s a hypothetical question, “If you had an opportunity to immediately double your income but it was through moving into a ‘gray’ area, would you be tempted?”  My comment is: gold fever comes easier than you might think in situations like this.

Jesus said the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. In my experience, the difference between wanting enough money and loving money is a fine line.

But like Colin Wright said, the point of our lives is not in owning things of this world. Or, to again quote Jesus, "A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

Our version of wealth is defined in terms of how much we MAKE. But God’s version of wealth is defined in terms of how much we GIVE.

Onward and Upward

SaladSpinach greens, red peppers, green peppers – for a salad.  That’s what my friend Keith brought last night when he came by for supper.  I added cheese and pulled out several dressings from the fridge.

Sitting down to eat, Keith was about to pour some Italian dressing on his salad when I stopped him, "Hey!  You might want to check the expiration date on that."  He did, and it was September 2009.  So I checked the date on the Ranch: it said best by February 2010.  But they both smelled ok so we went ahead and used them.  It didn’t say they were expired, just best if used by the dates listed.

The moral of the story is some things last longer than one might think.  At least I’m not sick yet.  The other moral is I don’t eat salad often.

When I was a little kid, all us brothers used to go to a barber shop run by two older guy barbers.  We called them "The Old Geezers."  Not to their face of course, but the name stuck behind their back.  A couple weeks ago I needed a haircut and decided to return; it had been years since I’d last seen them.  One of the men was ominously missing, but the other barber remembered me right away.  As he was cutting my hair he began reminiscing:  had been barbering in that same shop for forty-three years, remembered giving me my first haircut, and was my brother the one who went to West Point? 

Sadly, his hair cutting partner had died recently of cancer.  From my perspective as an adult the surviving barber didn’t look that old, maybe 65.  And he was a “geezer” when I was a kid? Bet he will be barbering many years to come. 

Our society tells us we need to kick back and relax after a certain age.  But in my mind, similar to the out of date salad dressings, I hope to be good long after my expiration date.  I don’t ever plan on retiring.

My Grandpa sets a good example: he retired, but then went to Jamaica as a full-time missionary for five years.  Then he retired again, only to accept a full-time church pastorate for several more years.  Then he retired again, but soon was driving for a rental car agency while filling in as a substitute pastor.  He has a hard time sitting still.  So do I.

"You can’t teach an old dog new tricks," we oft hear.  But is it true?  I believe in life-long learning and can confidently attest to having learned more in the last five years since graduating college than in the four years previous at college.  At least more worthwhile things.  Just goes to show a college diploma isn’t the panacea it’s cracked up to be. 

We can’t sit on our laurels.  I remember watching a young pianist on TV being lauded as fantastic.  She was, for her elementary school age, but not by any other standard.  In order to be fantastic as an adult or even a teen she would need to improve dramatically.

What are we doing to keep ourselves sharp?  Flowing water remains fresh, but a calm pool turns stagnant.  A musical instrument stays in tune better when played. 

Here’s how the apostle Paul put it:

"I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man shadow boxing. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."  (1 Corinthians 9:26-27)

"But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."  (Phil 3:12-13)

Prepare Yourself

I have a co-worker who ran into a curb this morning with his car. It slid on ice and bent his rim. He didn’t have a car jack or tire iron, incredibly. He also was only wearing a cotton hoodie though it was 5 degrees out (yes, that would be Fahrenheit).

The Boy Scout motto is, “Be Prepared.” Anyone who knows us Middleton guys is aware we oft take this overboard. For instance, right now I’m carrying in my pockets a flashlight, knife, jump drive, and band-aid, among other paraphernalia. I use it all regularly. For instance, was exploring an underground culvert recently and the flashlight came in handy. As it did when I was searching under my car seat the other night for a lost item but instead only found oldish French Fries. Left them there for later, never know when I’ll get stuck in a blizzard and need extra carbs. All part of being prepared.

Failing to plan is planning to fail, they say.

In our Christian lives, preparing involves prep work in the Word and time alone with God. Was listening to a message titled Read Great Books by Chip Ingram where he said one of the most common questions he’s asked by young people is, "How can I know God’s will for my life?" Chip said he counters with, "How much time have you been spending in the Word?" to which he usually gets the response, "What does that have to do with anything?" Everything, really.

"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27)

Chip’s message was emphasizing the value of reading in general, which I wholeheartedly agree with. Right now I’m in the middle of two books, while continuing to digest contents from several previous. See Chip’s message notes, which includes his recommended reading list.

Along the lines of "cultivating the garden of our minds," Donald Miller had a short and witty write-up on the value of filling our minds with high octane fuel rather than spastic junk food.  Here’s an excerpt:

If you are wondering why there are no more C.S. Lewis’ in the world, no more stories as good as Tolkien’s, no cathedrals as great as the gothic’s, no music as moving as Pachelbel’s, it may be because the writers of these books, the tellers of these stories, the architects of these buildings and the composers of these symphonies are sitting on their couches watching television. I wonder what’s on tonight. (Miller)

I’m wondering, what am I doing now to prepare myself for the future?

Do Women Work Harder Than Men? And Other Gender Issues.

I’ve heard 2/3rds of the world’s manual labor is done by women.  A quick search on Google didn’t substantiate this fact, but I still wouldn’t be surprised if it were true.

From my unofficial observations, women DO work harder than men.

If you believe the creation account as given in the Hebrew Old Testament, the first woman was created after the first man, and was designed as a complementing partner, an excelling helper.  Of course, this implies Adam NEEDED help, which he most certainly did, as all men have since. 

In Romans 16 the Apostle Paul gives his greetings to a number of co-laborers.  I put together a list comparing the ratio of men to women he mentioned, with the descriptive title he gave for each:

Notes from Romans 16

So Paul mentions six women and only two men.  One of the men (Aquila) was a husband to one of the women (Priscilla) and between the two men mentioned, neither were commended for working hard.  On the other hand, four of the women were listed as "hard workers."  And Paul said one of the ladies (Mary) worked VERY hard.

I’ve noticed women can be such wonderful workers in their own right they don’t always see need for men.  The reality is, the Bible teaches, both men and women are happiest when playing the roles they were designed for.  Ladies seem capable of performing either role with ease, whereas many guys seem to struggle with their own.

Backing up, from my understanding of Holy Scripture, men and women do have equal worth, but different roles.  Biblical New Testament Christianity clearly ascribes gender equality amongst Believers:

"There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  (Galatians 3:28)

And the Bible also states men and women have the same destiny, a belief which would differ greatly from other religions such as Islam:

"Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers." (1 Peter 3:7)

I can hear it now, "Sexist! How could Peter say women are weaker?!"  It may not be politically correct to say, but in certain respects (most obviously physically, and perhaps that’s the only category), women are weaker: on average and also in the extremes.  For instance, height:  The average American woman is 5′-4", whereas the average American man is 5′-9.5". (source for height demographics

And when we go to the extreme, the same trend holds.  The world record for bench pressing is held by Ryan Kennelly, who has lifted 1,075 pounds.  The female world record for bench pressing is Becca Swanson, who’s pressed 600 pounds.  Granted, I personally can only bench about the weight of the bar, and these folks are probably on steroids, but my point is that, in general, the average man is stronger physically than the average woman. 

So I don’t think we should roll Peter under the bus for his observation.  Especially since it was written 2,000 years ago when political correctness wasn’t all the rage.

What is more amazing is the second part of his statement, where Peter unabashedly recognizes men and women have the same destinies: both are heirs together of the promise of life.  And both will be judged equally by the same standards at the judgment seat of Christ.  Positionally, the Bible teaches men and women are equal.

In our society today, I see gender lines blurry at best and non-existent at worst.  In July 2010,  Newsweek ran an article entitled, Women Will Rule the World.  It listed the following stats:

In the US, women…

  • …outnumber men in the attainment of college degrees by 20 percent
  • …hold 89 percent of all bank accounts
  • …made 83 percent of all consumer purchases last year
  • …represented 72 percent of class valedictorians last year

Nature abhors a vacuum.  Men vacated and women filled.  Or women invaded and men fled.  Not sure which.  Either way, I say it’s no time for women to stand back; rather, it’s HIGH time for men to step forward. 

What do you think?