One of the most quoted Bible verses has got to be Philippians 4:13: "For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength." But, the verse right before that one is often overlooked: "I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little."
We live in a nation of plenty, of excess. These many material possessions surely make us happier, right? In Seven, Jen Hatmaker tells us that, "a survey of life satisfaction in more than sixty-five countries indicate that income and happiness track well until about $13,000 of annual income per person. After that, additional income produces only modest increments in self-reported happiness. It's no wonder. We are incurring debt and working longer hours to pay for the high-consumption lifestyle, consequently spending less time with family, friends, and community."
Hmmmm. Looks like maybe we ought to spend a little more time being happy with what we've got and a little less time envying the Jones'.
In an effort to live contentedly this week, we will attempt to:
1. take more out of the house than we bring into it.
2. go through and clean out the kids' rooms (the only rooms I've yet to purge this winter)
3. hold a yard sale to raise $$ to donate to those who are learning to live contentedly on much less than we have
4. pray like this: Lord, grant us the grace to live differently from the culture around us and to know that a life gaging fullness by possessions is an empty life indeed. Give us the wisdom to discern the difference between wants and needs and to choose wisely how we spend the resources You have entrusted to us. Help us to see the many, many ways in which you have blessed us that have no monetary value whatsoever.
As for last week's "Acting Justly," I learned so much from Shane Claiborne's podcast on social justice (download it for free on iTunes). I cannot accurately quote directly because I was running on a treadmill while I listened, but here are some of the post-run notes I made that are worth checking out:
1. Justice on a social level is about love. It's about falling in love with a group of people who are marginalized, outcast, or downtrodden and joining your voice with theirs as you work to bring them equality, fairness, love.
2. If God has given us the eyes to see and the ears to hear a need, perhaps it's because He's inviting us to be part of the solution. He may be calling you to be the agent of change.
3. For those who are hesitant to give to the needy because they fear being taken advantage of, let us remember that when we meet Jesus face to face, He's unlikely to tell us that we got taken advantage of too often. If we err in our giving, let us err on the side of grace-- err on the side of trust.
4. Justice is not about being the Good Samaritan in Jesus' parable rather than the priest or Levite. It's about asking the question, "why are so many people getting mugged on this road?" and seeking a solution "Maybe we ought to pave this road to Jericho or have it patrolled more closely."
5. Claiborne offered another metaphor: Justice is not about giving a man a fish or even teaching the man to fish. Rather, justice is about asking who owns the pond. In my discussions with John this week, though, he proposed an even better ending to the metaphor. Yes, we can ask who owns the pond, but that ought to lead us to the conclusion that the pond is God's. What we ought to do, then, is be sure that everyone has equal access to the pond. I really like that. My hubby -- he's so smart. :)