Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Matthew 6:19-21 says, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Based on the some messages I have heard recently, the current economic state of the union, and the way my anomalous mind works, I have been contemplating prosperity and what it really means. I have personally never been a person who desired massive amounts of wealth. I have never wanted a mansion, a brand new BMW, the latest (and most expensive) technologies, or anything of this nature. It is not that I believe these things are in and of themselves bad things. I am not sure I can pinpoint the exact reason I do not desire these items. It could be because my parents worked very hard to instill in my siblings and I to be patient and diligently save for anything of value that we really wanted. When you have to save for something, it really does make you question whether or not it is worth all of the time and effort required to gain it. I also like to think that I place a lot more value on relationships than on stuff. I have never minded too much to go without something. I figure if I have made it without something for so long, I can probably continue to go without it. For example, I have thought many a time that I "need" to get myself a black belt. I don't have one. I have a brown belt that I wear most of the time, and I have a couple other belts that are colors. I have no black belt, but whenever I think about actually spending money on a black belt, I decide against it. You see, I think I have been without a black belt for about 5 of my 22 years now. If I have lived without something as simple as a black belt for nearly a quarter of my life, do I really "need" it?
Anyway, my point with all of this is that I am not sure I understand prosperity. I have framed it in my own mind, but I think my frame of prosperity is so far off from what society presents that I am not even sure it should be identified with the same term. To me, prosperity is identified not by any form of monetary wealth. It is not defined by the size of a home, the make of a car, the brand of a pair of jeans (or fancy gown), the side of the railroad tracks (or world) one lives on, or any number of other things that others may argue. As far as I can tell, Jesus presents a different perspective entirely. He says to store up treasures in heaven. I am a firm believer that when I get to heaven, it will not matter what brand of clothing I wore on earth or what kind of car I drove. What will matter is the way I lived and how much it brought glory to God. Now, I have heard it argued that God wants us to have nice things because He does not want His children to look like paupers. I can understand this, and I believe that God wants us to have His best. I think the problem comes when our simple minds try to comprehend and explain God's ways and thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the LORD. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.'" I am not claiming to have it figured out. It is entirely possible and plausible that I am completely and utterly wrong in thinking that God's desire for me is to be wealthy and have a closet bursting at the seams with a brand new designer car. I don't believe this is His desire for me. It may be His desire for others, but that is between them and God.
So, you ask, what is my point in all of this? My point is that I am completely content to live on a careful budget, foregoing amenities that others may consider necessities if this means that I can live a life completely dependent upon the Lord and furthering His Kingdom. I want to leave an inheritance to those that come after me, but not an inheritance of stuff or wealth. I want to leave an inheritance of love and relationships and wisdom and passion and faithfulness. These are the things that measure prosperity to me, and I hope that they will mean more to those who come after me than an antique lamp or a large home ever could...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Currency of Humanity

I have spent quite a chunk of time pondering the way that we value people and how we determine this value. My observations have proven to be quite disturbing and upsetting. About a year ago I read about something known as the lifeboat theory. This theory suggests that five people are stranded in the middle of an ocean sharing a single lifeboat. The problem is that in order for the group as a whole to survive, one of the boat's inhabitants must be tossed overboard. The occupants of the lifeboat are a female doctor, a male lawyer, a stay-at-home mom, a garbage collector, and a crippled child. In order to find a plausible solution to this problem, people will weigh their options, identifying the pros and cons of each individual member. All of this is done to determine the inherent value of each individual. Essentially, this identifies that all men, women, and children are not created equally. And for most of us, we would not have any problem voting out the weakest link in this situation, claiming that we are looking out for the best interests of the whole. This is where my spirit clashes with the culture that created me. After looking at this situation for a while, I was troubled because who I am to determine that one individual is more valuable than another, in the same way that a hundred dollar bill is more valuable than a one dollar bill? Who am I to say that an aeronautical engineer is more valuable than a sanitation engineer (aka trash collector)? What criteria am I using to determine this? A pay scale? An education level? It certainly isn't their personal value to me because I guarantee that my life would be much more affected if there were no garbage collectors than if there were no aeronautical engineers. I mean really, when was the last time I went into space? I can't seem to identify a single criterion used to determine human value, but it certainly seems that we are not using the same criterion as God.
Now this may come as a shock to some of you, but God sees everyone with the same value. That does not mean that everyone is meant to have the same occupation or has the same gifts or abilities. He does not have the same expectations for everyone, but He has the same amount of love for every individual. Psalm 139:17-18 says, "How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with You." My prayer is that I would see every individual with the eyes of Jesus, and by doing this, I will be better able to love others with His love. When I look at the poor, the rich, the old, the young, the angry, the scared, the abused, the abusers, the victim, the perpetrator; I want to see the image of the One who created them and love them with His love. And some day, the currency of humanity will be replaced with the purposes of God. Some day...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Are we inherently selfish?

This is a question I have found myself searching for an answer to as of late. Selfishness really bothers me. While I know that at times (more often than I would like to admit) I am very selfish, I really do not aim to be selfish. I typically do think of others more than myself, sometimes to a fault. For example, I know that I have a tendency to be more upset about others' pain or trials than my own. It bothers me more to know that one of my friends or family members has been hurt than that some wrong was done to me. I have been this way for as long as I can remember. I recall a certain teacher I had in elementary school who was known to have obvious favorites whom she treated in a much different manner than the rest of the class by affording them unique privileges and constantly comparing other students to them. I was one of those favorites for that teacher, and though I received privileges and extra attention, I did not like this teacher because of the way I saw her treating other students. However, if I merely assessed her actions based on how she treated me, I would have characterized her as an excellent teacher. I had another teacher who chose students to be the butt of his continual jokes. While I was never the butt of any jokes, my observations of the reactions and feelings of those who were forced me to view this teacher in a more negative light. Now, I am not saying that I had miserable teachers as a I child because that is simply not the case nor am I saying that I have bitter feelings toward these teachers or anything. I was merely using these stories to illustrate my point that I have a tendency to think about the feelings of others. In fact, I remember as a junior high and high school student (and beyond) praying for God to heap pain on me if it meant that others would not have to go through trials. I realize that God does not work that way, and I see the value in facing trials. Romans 5:3-4 says, "And not only that, we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope." Thus, I do believe that facing trials and tribulations and going through painful situations is what produces character and the fruit of the Holy Spirit within us. I am not saying that everything I have done or the way that I think is correct. It has just made me question why and how I am the way that I am. I find myself regularly asking God why I am the way that I am--not because I am angry or upset with the way He created me, but because I want to understand the greater purposes for which He created me.
Anyway, I digress from the topic at hand. Is selfishness inherent in humans? If we take a look at babies, we would probably have plenty of reason to say that selfishness is absolutely inherent. Infants know only that their basic needs must be met and have no regard for the situations of others. It is impossible to reason with a hungry infant because no reason or excuse that is supplied will fill his/her grumbling tummy. However, by the same token, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:11, "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things." Is this suggesting that while children may be inherently selfish, men and women should be past selfishness? This is where I am perplexed because it seems that selfishness has become somewhat of an epidemic among people, regardless of age. This causes me to wonder if we really understand what selfishness is and how it appears in our lives. I know that I have selfish thoughts that I fail to even recognize as selfish. I have been trying to be more conscious of my thoughts and checking myself. Ultimately, my desire is to have the mind of Christ, who was never selfish. Instead, He continually placed others before Himself and always sought the best interests of others.
So, maybe humans are inherently selfish, but when we accept Christ and we are no longer of this world, everything that is innately human gets tossed out the window. We have a new standard, a new inheritance. As Christians we are called to live to a higher standard, one worthy of the calling of Jesus Christ on our lives. When we accept Christ, we inherit His character, His unselfishness. This is great news for us because true joy is Jesus, Others, then You, but an inheritance requires us to claim that it is ours and to prove that we are who we say we are. Our lives have to serve as our identification as a child of God in order to claim the inheritance that has been set aside for us in our name, much the same way we would have to present identification to prove our identity in order to claim an monetary inheritance.
Regardless of what may be inherently in me as a human, "I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14).

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Watch out world, here I come...

This is merely going to be an overflow of the thoughts racing through my mind. It will likely include mounds of global problems I do not know how to solve as well as my personal journey to have a closer walk with Jesus. My ultimate desire is to help Him change the world, to see God's Kingdom come to earth, to allow hearts to be changed by Him.