Saturday, May 25, 2013

The good life vs. 'life that is truly life'

1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19 (NIV)

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
We had the delightful opportunity today to attend a family and friends Memorial Day weekend cookout in a lovely home a literal stone’s throw from Lake Michigan. The home and the neighboring properties were beautiful and in addition to the great food and fantastic company, it was something of a treat to be able to be in and around the type of home we’d usually just drive by while taking the scenic route toward a different destination.

But while we were clearly in a different tax bracket, only the backdrop was different. It was beyond obvious, from the pictures and mementos covering every flat service to the way family and friends greeted each other warmly and spoke glowingly throughout the day, that this was no shrine to money. It was a place for people to enjoy being together. It was not unlike the Labor Day fish fry we enjoyed last summer on a Mississippi River sandbar. Good friends, good food, laughter and love all around.

The thing about money and arrogance is it’s entirely possible to have one without the other. No one should be defined by what they own or what they lack, but the larger point, as Paul explains, is the danger of putting hope in wealth versus putting hope in God. I’ve had the privilege to know people, from wealthy to poor, with a seemingly boundless generosity and willingness to share. What they started from isn’t as important as their desire to give to others.

Of course, it’s far more easy to be generous when you’ve got an abundance of something. But there are so many people whose abundance is not in wealth or possessions, but something less tangible, like free time, musical or artistic talent, or the simple gift of a caring heart and eyes and ears for people in need of emotional support. Financial gifts can go a long way toward a better world as well, but I feel Paul, building off of some of Jesus’ teachings, is making a solid statement about the value of being a good person above all else.

Society, of course, is quick to label people rich or poor or lower middle class or upper middle class or any other classification that helps create groups of folks we don’t actually have to get to know because we’ve got a good understanding of what it means to fit our preconceptions. I am as good at judging books by their covers as anyone, no matter how much I try to repress that instinct. Yet I know I should be looking at the world as God does instead of trying to worry what other people are thinking.

Taking “hold of the life that is truly life” sounds like an incredible opportunity, exactly the sort of thing God wants for me, for everyone. Being surrounded by so many people who clearly care deeply for one another, whether in a beautiful lake house or gathered on a riverside sandbar, leads to the sentiment that God finds way to give us glimpses on Earth of what it really means to be encompassed in true life, true love and true, complete togetherness.

A prayer for May 25:

Lord, thank you for the generous people in my life, those who have given so much to help get me to this place. Through gifts of time, money or simply trying to understand me and make the world a better place, I have opportunities each day to be grateful for another person who enriches my life. Help me also to be a blessing to others, and to show my children the importance of putting hope in you and nothing else. Amen.

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