And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
~ Luke 12:15
Who doesn't want to win the Powerball? Have you ever had a daydream about what you would do if you won Megamillions, or invented the internet and made a billion dollars? Or how about simply wishing you had a little extra money to take a vacation or fix the gutters or something?
Well, I certain have had and do have such thoughts. Mostly, I think about winning Powerball and having, say, $250 million in cash in my bank. Most often, I think about starting a Christian school with it, or some sort of Christian community. So, that's not so greedy, really, although I imagine I might spend half a percent on a house at the beach and a boat. But here's the question (and notice I did not say the $64,000 question!): Would I be any happier?
I actually doubt it. Way too many rich and famous people are miserable, lost, and suicidal. I have more comfort than I need. A soft bed, heat and air-conditioning, health care, food, a car than runs. So I will resolve: I need no more money, no more things of this earth.
But how about someone who is bankrupt, homeless, unable to buy enough food? Yes, that is a different sort of need. The problem I have with thinking about subsistence-level wealth is that anything more than the shirt on my back and food for today seems to be called excessive, and my model for this is the disciples whom Christ sent out during His life.
Mark 6:8-9 tells us, “He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.” Once we buy into the notion that our entire happiness rests in our love of others, and our love of Christ and our love from Christ, we notice that the models that the Bible gives us, the apostles, hit the road with nothing but the clothes they wore.
Which leads me to suspect, I would be “happier” if I had less of the material world and more of Christ. This constant voice in my head telling me to work for the respect of others, to increase my wealth, to be more important, to be healthier and better educated, might not be the voice of the Holy Spirit and might not be good for me. It might be like a diabetic craving a candy bar.
Those of us who have or have ever had issues with overweight know something: eating sweets only make you want to eat sweets even more. Wanting wealth or fame is like scratching a poison ivy rash. It just makes it itch more.
And to continue the candy bar metaphor, learning to be grateful instead of greedy is like learning to be satisfied with a meal, instead of wanting dessert. Gratitude diminishes greed.
I will ask God for my daily bread, just as Jesus taught us, and nothing more. Whatever I get, I will be grateful instead of wanting more. What God wants to give us, and what God wants us to ask Him for, are more of the gifts of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. That is what will make God happy; that is what will make me happy.
Lord, let me not be deceived by the wealth of the world, but always seek your Kingdom and the fruits of your Spirit. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer