Just Stuff

well-clothed_babyToday’s article will touch on a variety of subjects and will not quote Scripture directly but will address 
themes that are supported by Scriptures that can be identified and referenced at later times under later circumstances.

The first topic is going to be on balance and focusing on what is important and what is not. There are a lot of things in our lives, especially in our materialistically driven American “culture” that come under the heading of “just stuff”. “Just stuff” is not really that important, although at some times because of the attention it seeks (and gets) it may seem important. But it is really not.

One of the things that comes under the “just stuff” heading is MONEY.

Now it is true that in our society and the system we live in and how it is organized, money is a tool that almost all of us need to negotiate daily life. It is more generically called “currency” and it is a means by which value is assigned to certain tasks, services, or uses of people’s time to do various things. Way back in earlier times, people did most everything for themselves. Then as people gathered together, there was something called the “barter system” where people exchanged goods or services directly, an early form of trade. Then as societies advanced, “coin”, “currency” or “money” was developed to make the exchange of goods and services more efficient. So all money is .. it’s just a tool… to assist in the transactions of life. Now it is true that having more money allows one to engage in more transactions, but beyond a certain point, in economic terms, those additional transactions deliver less and less of what we would call (in economics) “marginal value” or “value at the margin” or “marginal utility”.

The illusion that frequently gets presented to us (with the Enemy behind the message) is that more and more MONEY will make us happier and happier and life easier and easier as we have more of it.

That is a BIG LIE. It’s just not true. (There is an alternate corollary “mo money, mo problems”…that’s for a separate article).

The true reality is that we all need some level of economic empowerment and sufficiency. We need to be able to afford housing, food, clothing, transportation…some amount of recreation and fun (when we can). These are all natural and good and necessary. And God does not want us, as a rule, to be deprived of those natural things. BUT, IF we get overly fixated on more and more money for any reason beyond the basics, we can get into a lot of frustration, a lot of trouble and a lot of unnecessary pain and anxiety.

A healthier perspective, that can be gained from Christ-centered and even secular perspectives is this.

Pursue your “higher” purpose in life…whatever that may be. We all are designed as creatures to work.

We all need meaningful work. We also need a meaningful social context for our life and our work. We all need some recreation to give us balance between our work and other elements.

When we find that, and it can be found in many forms, we will usually get some money along with that.

Some may get more than others. Our society doesn’t place the same economic value on all work. Some of that is just, some of it is unjust. We need to understand that. For example, school teachers do work that is much, much more essential than the work that some artists and entertainers do. But entertainers typically are paid 10X to 100X what most school teachers make. The valuation on the work has other roots other than the true intrinsic value. That is a distortion, but it is a part of our society and is not likely to change. We shouldn’t get too wrapped up on that. Some may actually be “called” to be entertainers…and there can be a means and a way for them to bless others through the economic distortion of how that occupation can be disproportionately compensated. So we should not look upon someone who earns what might be considered a disproportionate income….especially if they go about it with honesty and integrity…as a bad thing. It is a way in which they are blessed. Some blessings ARE financial. Some blessings are not. God uses all of them and we should not begrudge or feel jealous of someone because they may be blessed in a certain way that is different from us and particularly if that blessing is manifested in a financial way (i.e. by money or compensation).

Finally, one lesson this writer has learned from a fairly wide exposure to people of varying means and economic and educational levels (over almost 50 years in multiple career fields including, the military, government, school teaching, big business, small business, academia and community service) is that there is ALMOST ZERO direct correlation between the levels of satisfaction, centeredness and happiness I have observed in people and their economic status. I have seen people at all levels who are very happy, moderately happy, moderately unhappy and very unhappy. It doesn’t have anything to do with your economic status. It has to do with other things.

Now, it is true that people below a certain level (i.e. poverty) who cannot even attain the basic needs may struggle to be happy. There is no denying that reality. And that is also a topic for a separate discussion, BUT, in the zone where people can, at minimum, meet basic needs and beyond, the observation made in the previous paragraph is generally true.

The very final statement is, with respect to our resources (financial and otherwise) and how we apply them, a statement that was offered to me by a wonderful friend in the full-time ministry some time ago is as follows…this may not be his original quote…in fact it is probably an adaptation from a more well known quote from theologian and famed clergyman John Wesley…is: “God calls us to “do the best we can with what we have where we are.”  Stated differently, we are given certain gifts and opportunities. God calls us to apply those gifts as best we can under the circumstances we exist and try to make things a little bit better and improve the lot of others in the process. If we can do that, and do it consistently, the process involved will add to our sense of purpose and very likely have a positive impact on our level of temporal happiness as well.

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