My greedy heart

Mountain Dawn

While on holiday in Wanaka recently, the abundance of overt wealth and expensive SUVs being driven around got me wondering how some folks can end up with so much money?

A well paying job obviously helps, I recently searched on the internet to see how my own salary compared to what is possible and came away rather demoralised! Yet salary alone is not the way to make lots of money. Business acumen, avoiding debt, high return investments, and the real estate market are all proven paths to riches.

So my envious heart jumped to wondering how I could enjoy part of the pie being so lavishly consumed by the wealthy. How could I generate a better income?

Most of the really high paying jobs are beyond my reach, even those on oil rigs or mines (no doubt to my wife’s great relief!). We have no spare cash to invest, and with my erratic shift roster a part-time job is not practical. After a few days greedily dreaming of get-rich-quick schemes the practical realities of life bit back, deflating my hunger for riches somewhat.

In this slightly covetous, mildly envious and dejected state of mind I read Deuteronomy 8:11-20 in which God warns the Israelites against comparing themselves with the nations around them. This passage has always helped me plot a course through life and is a timely corrective to my recent straying in heart from what is of true importance:

Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.
(Deuteronomy 8:17-19 ESV)

All I have is due to God’s blessing. My financial debts are the result of my own poor choices at various times. Yet even the ability to do my job and earn an income of adequate proportions to sustain my family comes directly from God, regardless of how hard the work may seem to me. Even more importantly, these verses recalibrate my thinking to see that not only is God the source of my material blessings, He is the only source of ultimate meaning or satisfaction.

As Paul points out to a young pastor:

godliness with contentment is great gain,
(1 Timothy 6:6 ESV)

In fact, Paul’s exhortation in verses 7-12 of 1 Timothy chapter 6 sum up well why I was never destined to be a rich man once I began taking the Bible seriously! It is good advice and fleeing the love of money to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness and to fight the good fight of faith is the best way I could invest my life (and the best way you could invest yours).

Olamic eyes

olamic-eyesI encountered the phrase ‘olamic eyes’ in a poem and had to drag out the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary to understand what it means. (The poem is: Digging for Now by Ruth Mowry)

Olam is a rarely used noun of Hebrew origin meaning ‘a vast period of time, an age of the universe.’ Olamic is the adjective.

A website about ancient Hebrew word meanings describes the meaning as being ‘in the far distance’ in the sense of being difficult to make out or so far away in time that it is difficult to know.

When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night do one’s eyes see sleep, then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out. (Ecclesiastes 8:16-17 ESV)

In a sense, all Christians should look upon life with ‘olamic eyes’, searching out that which is barely discernible beyond the edge of this world and this time. Pondering this idea led me to a couple of conclusions to bear in mind when looking into the dim future or realms beyond this mortal coil:

Find a good lookout

When trying to interpret what is far off and indistinct, it helps to have a good vantage point – on the mountain tops rather than down in a valley of despair. If I am down in such a vale where my sight is even more restricted than usual, it is probably wise to be cautious in how I interpret what appears to be off in the past or future.

Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. (Colossians 2:18-19 ESV)

Avoid pollution

In Antartica, where the air is too cold to hold much water vapour and the pollution of the industrial world has only a minimal impact, it is possible to see much further than most of us are accustomed to. There are reports of explorers making navigational errors not realizing that distances are further than they appear due to the clarity of the atmosphere on that continent.

I too have become accustomed to breathing, living and looking through a polluted atmosphere. My vision of God is blurred and obscured by the smog of the world, confusing me when I think I can see clearly but actually cannot.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 ESV)

fenriskjeften-antarctica

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Image: Veer, Gordon Wiltsie 

More and less in 2013

2013 on palmsWell, a new year – time for resolutions, a fresh start, renewed energy – all that jazz. For me it is just another day at work.

However, despite my own cynicism, the start of a new year does mean something more than ‘just another day’ to me. After the draining rush and stress of Christmas and the ‘end of year’ wind up, there is a sense of needing a fresh start, a chance to get things moving ahead on the right foot. Fortunately for us who live ‘downunder’ we get to start each new year in the middle of summer so there really is a chance to nurture new growth, to get out into nature and unwind a bit, or read that book we were given for Christmas.

As yet I haven’t made any resolutions or specific goals for 2013, but I did drag out my old notebook in which I’ve written goals for years already gone by and noticed a few interesting patterns:

  • Some big goals that initially appeared out of reach have been achieved, particularly ones regarding jobs and income.
  • My goals of eating and spending less are the ones I put least effort into reaching!
  • Personal challenges that God has allowed into my life have forced me to work harder on some ‘personal development’ goals that had been on my list but slightly neglected – should have done that work sooner!
  • External pressure is a huge motivator for me to work on my goals; for example, I had a goal of studying the psalms more deeply which was neglected for several years. Then our church began preaching on the psalms and so that year my goal was more than fulfilled.
  • Spiritual growth/disciplines such as Bible reading and prayer are super important, hard to measure, never ‘complete’, and difficult to sustain without external motivation.
  • Small daily steps working on personal values can get me a long way, conversely – neglect of daily discipline can lead to wasted years.

So, goals for 2013?

I’m still not sure what my goals are for this year. There are a few ideas rattling around in my head but I’m suspicious that their origin is more from my own heart than anything God is wanting me to aim for. Last year was pretty tough so there is an obvious desire to try to make this year better, whatever form ‘better’ might take.

An idea which may be worth pursuing is of making 2013 to be a year of ‘less’. Less incoming clutter into my heart, mind, inbox, and hard drives. I’m a compulsive gatherer of information, to the point of becoming overwhelmed by too much to read, listen to, think about, process. I also eat too much and spend too much so aiming for less in 2013 seems like a good plan.

To immediately contradict myself, I also have a goal of more blogging here on Words of Eternal Life. Having not posted anything here for weeks means that ‘more’ should be easy to achieve! Over the last few months I’ve considered a couple of web projects that have diverted my attention from this blog but my focus is now back here and I’m keen to infuse some more life into this site. I’ve got a few plans of what I like to blog about this year but will keep these to myself until the writing has been done!
2013-sand

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Image: iStock