Part Two of Three
Continuing with our series on Wisdom and Successful Living, we have found that wisdom is both from above and necessary in our daily living. It is a life skill that comes with knowledge and practice. It is the Hebrew term chokmah, which means skillful living or wisely winding your life with skill around the circumstances you face with good judgment and sober thinking and knowledge.
Last week, I shared with you the story of the monkey who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
As it goes, there was a cookie left inside an open jar, and the opening of the jar was just big enough for the monkey’s hand to enter but not big enough for his fist to come back out with the treat in it. So, if he insisted on trying to hold onto his treat, he would be stuck. The moral here is that there is a price for greed: the monkey got himself captured because he refused to just let go of the cookie.
We measure success backwards – someone has changed all the price tags!. We are told we are what we drive, what we wear, what we do, what we own. None of that is true, not even close. In the first century, church, was held in homes on Sunday evenings because that was the only time slaves could “get off” from work. Since 75% of the congregation was converted slaves, the early church confronted favoritism and partiality on these same surface standards. The choicest seats and places in the church were reserved for the rich minority. James 2:5-7 5Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? We are not measured by these external standards.
Most people have a money issue that haunts them. Given that about one-sixth of New Testament verses address money and wealth in some manner, it is safe to say this is a gremlin that tracks us all. For me, balancing three businesses, 25 employees, challenges for work, growth, fairness to employees, offering the best possible services or products are all measured against issues of money, of budget, and of planning for the future. Lyndon Johnson addressed this more crudely: “Don’t forget. There are two hundred million of us in a world of three billion. They want what we’ve got – and we’re not going to give it to them.”
In the Old Testament, a walk with God was measured in part by health and wealth. Israel as a nation, blessed by God, would prosper. Leprosy, for example, was viewed as a judgment by God. Yet even among the Old Testament prophets, the higher standard and value of protecting the poor was proclaimed. Jeremiah 22:16, commented on King Josiah. “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” Do you see the deeper issue? How we see ourselves and how we treat those less fortunate than ourselves is not only honorable to God but a measure of our relationship with God! It is the standard to know me.
Others try to reduce this to a lifestyle. Maybe God is pleased if we live in a house of this size, with a diet or discretionary spending at this level, or with cars that are of this standard or size or value? Of course, that is just again the external trap of measurement. Maybe we fall into the trap of Marie Antoinette, who built a reproduction of a French peasant village on her palace grounds at Versailles after which she would visit and play the peasant. In America, it is virtually impossible to live in a poor manner, unless you are homeless. Apart from the issue of hunger in America, which haunts me, we live in comfort, are well-fed, and have medical care and luxuries not available to most of the world population.
Mark Twain captured this issue for many: “…being rich ain’t what it’s cracked up to be. It’s just worry and worry, and sweat and sweat, and a-wishing you was dead all the time.” –The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. But this leads to another principle. If everyone did everything expected of them, we would all go crazy! You have to measure your goals and expectations. I pick out certain charities and groups to support, with or without tax benefits, and support them. I would recommend the same for you. And then you and I live in the constant stage of evaluation – wealth and greed is a gremlin that does not go away. More on that from the Good Samaritan next week.
– John Moore