Am I Learning to Release My Grip?
Two related items popped up on my news feed within seconds of each other. The first is a New York Times opinion piece. Its author, Graham Hill, made a small fortune selling his Internet consulting firm before the tech bubble burst. Money changed his life, yet he learned from that change to live more simply. The second is a YouTube video on wealth inequality. It uses charts and graphs to visually show what people think wealth distribution looks like in the US, what people think the ideal distribution should be, and what the actual distribution is. I was surprised by their findings. You may be too.
Having seen these, I am thinking about them with God to see if there is anything for me to learn.
Another Reality – Life in the Kingdom of God
Most of us live at the center of the universe. We look out for ourselves first because we think nobody else will. That used to be my home, but not any longer. My real life is not in this world. I have died and my life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col 3:3) I am a visitor here; my citizenship is in the kingdom of God. (Phil 3:20) The significant systemic issues, whether political or economic, are not mine to fix. There are those who are addressing them as God leads them, but this is not my calling.
Nevertheless, I recognize that economically and spiritually, I have more than most, more than I need, and beyond what I have earned. In light of those advantages, there are three questions I ask.
From What Am I Drawing Life?
The rich young ruler drew life from his great wealth. When asked to part with it, he could not do it. It was his life. (Mark 10:17-27) Thank goodness Jesus does not use me as his teaching object. However, I ask myself : from what am I drawing life? Is there anything I own that is so vital to my life that I would be devastated if I were forced to give it up?
God is gracious in identifying such things. When he does, he doesn’t force me to give them up. He offers me something better to take their place. He offers me himself. This is what Jesus means when he tells the rich young ruler “come, follow me.” The more I accept his offer of himself, the more I am able to let go of what I own. Finding my life (identity) in relation to Jesus frees me trying to get life from possessions.
How Am I Contributing to Exploitation?
It is the nature of systems, corporations, and people to move toward exploitation in an effort to build their own kingdoms. This kind of greed comes from a deep feeling of scarcity, that sense that there just isn’t enough to go around. With that deeply embedded worldview we feel like we have to control and possess what we can. I lived there for far too long, and I don’t want to participate in it any longer.
So in my daily living I ask: How am I contributing to exploitation? Am I buying from companies that exploit others? Are there things I can pay more for so others receive better compensation for their labor? And I pray: God, teach me to live counter-culturally so that I can demonstrate the reality of your kingdom. Give me as much of yourself as I can stand so that I sense no loss in giving up my advantages.
How Can I Live More Generously?
Freely you have received; freely give. (Matt 10:8) My thinking there is more than enough to go around is one thing. Understanding that I have more than enough is another. God is inviting me into greater levels of generosity to increase my trust in him and learn that he is enough. In doing so, I am finding that I have “food to eat that you know nothing about.” (John 4:32) He is enough.
I used to feel guilty about being affluent. After all, the poor widow gave out of her poverty. (Mark 12:44) I am not giving from a point of poverty. I am more like the rich young ruler than the poor widow, economically speaking. But God is teaching me that it is all his and I can live generously with it, just as he does.
What God Is Saying to Me
If something is holding on to me, give it away, for life in the kingdom of God is a better possession! Keep my eyes open to see how I may be contributing to exploitation. Act on what I learn. Regarding everything under my care, keep an open hand. Enjoy it while it is mine to use, and generously share it or give it away when it can benefit another. That is what I am learning.
What are you learning about riches, exploitation, and simple living? What did God say to you when you rad the article and watched the video?