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).

Pray for your kids – Contentment

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
(Philippians 4:11-13 ESV)

Child consumerism

For my children to be content with what they have is much harder than it was for me at their ages. They are subjected to an unending stream of stuff, food, experiences and entertainment that simply did not exist when I was a kid.

There is big money to be made from targeting children as consumers, and it is generally easier to convince a child than an adult that this next new thing will bring happiness. There are people out there greedily wanting money.

They are happy to use our kids in order to get it.

A learned state of heart

Learning to be content is a battle for all of us. From outside ourselves there will always be more to have, while arising from within is a constant stream of desires. These may both be neutral, but we are naturally primed to be always wanting more than we have.

Contentment is learned. It has to be learned from God because the world does not want us to be content – economics depends on our dissatisfaction!

Ask God to give your children contentment and for yourself also. Pray that we parents will learn how to be content so our kids have examples to follow.

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
(1 Timothy 6:6-8 ESV)

Download the prayer prompts:

Pray for your kids – contentment

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.(Philippians 4:11-13 ESV)

Child consumerism

For my children to be content with what they have is much harder than it was for me at their ages. They are subjected to an unending stream of stuff, food, experiences and entertainment that simply did not exist when I was a kid.

There is big money to be made from targeting children as consumers, and it is generally easier to convince a child than an adult that this next new thing will bring happiness. There are people out there greedily wanting money.

They are happy to use our kids in order to get it.

A learned state of heart

Learning to be content is a battle for all of us. From outside ourselves there will always be more to have, while arising from within is a constant stream of desires. These may both be neutral, but we are naturally primed to be always wanting more than we have.

Contentment is learned. It has to be learned from God because the world does not want us to be content – economics depends on our dissatisfaction!

Ask God to give your children contentment and for yourself also. Pray that we parents will learn how to be content so our kids have examples to follow.

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
(1 Timothy 6:6-8 ESV)


Download the prayer prompts:

Image of my girls: Me

Pleasant boundaries

This may sound corny, but I’m happy with my lot in life.
Certainly there are moments when I wish things were different,  usually when I am feeling unhappy in general and wanting something to blame it on. Then there are the times when some aspect of my life is completely out of whack and I take measures to sort it out. Simply looking back at the last ten years I am amazed at what changes my wife and I have made – we have come a long way, and there is plenty of change yet to happen I’m sure. So how then can I make the fatalistic-sounding comment that I am ‘happy with my lot in life’? Because of  Psalm 16:

The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
(Psalm 16:5-6 ESV)

The ‘lines’ referred to here are the boundary lines of the psalmist’s family inheritance. He is effectively saying that God is the One who has assigned his place in life and he is delighted with the plot of land God has given his family to inherit through the generations. This is easier to see in the old NIV translation:

LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance
(Psalm 16:5-6 NIV 1984)

I do not have a family plot of land allotted by God, but I do have a body that I inhabit and a life to live which have all been given by God and the boundaries of this life of mine are set by God. In some respects those boundaries are a bit limiting (isn’t that what boundaries do – limit the extent of something?): I am of average intelligence – not overly bright, not completely stupid; I’m short; I read slowly (and think and write slowly); I have a modest income; have no sporting ability (or interest in acquiring any); in short, just very ordinary.

Fortunately, through a variety of means over the years, God has made my limitations (boundary lines) clear to me – perhaps this is one of the benefits of getting older. As I have become aware of my own limitations (such as needing to sleep) I have actually become more content and also more likely to trust God. Paul comments on this in  Romans 12:3-8, we are not to envy the abilities of others but to use what we have been given. The ancient equivalent was the boundary stones marking the inheritance of each family, God explicitly told the Israelites not to move those boundaries:

You shall not move your neighbor’s landmark, which the men of old have set, in the inheritance that you will hold in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess.
(Deuteronomy 19:14 ESV)

To shift the boundary markers is to steal from a neighbour, and to be dissatisfied with God’s allotment. When it comes to what God has allotted me in life I can rejoice in all I have been given because it is not too great for me to live up to. If I try to steal more than my allotment I will not be able to keep it cultivated, weeds will grow and everyone will lose.