Yesterday, I put the following verse up in my kitchen as a reminder. Given all the news about the economy going south and my observations of people getting depressed because of it, I thought it was a good verse to gain some perspective on things:
“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 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.” I Timothy 6:6-8
Profound, isn’t it, that so many things we consider necessities to life don’t fit into these two categories. I don’t think Paul was excluding necessities like shelter and water, of course; I believe he was meaning things truly minimally necessary to life. On that note, I was reading an interesting article online that included this quote:
“We don’t make horrible money, but every penny is allocated. Life is pretty miserable when you have to constantly tell your children ‘NO’ when they ask for something – when you can no longer just go grocery shopping, you have to now only buy what is on your list and hope there is enough in the account to cover the cost.”
Now, to me, that’s just normal life (shrug). Why should life be miserable when you can get the things on your shopping list, and you occasionally (or even regularly) have to say “no” when you children ask for something? That doesn’t sound like good cause for misery to me. Sounds like an opportunity to be creative and instill in ourselves and our children virtues of patience, understanding, contentment, and working for the things we need. I guess I’m once again on my usual song about our society being so totally blind about our relative affluence. It just makes me scratch my head in wonderment that people don’t see this. We have so much! Why is it so hard to see that?
Going back on my post of a week or so again about the ’60’s generation, one thing that still astounds me is that …well, these are the kids of the generation that lived through the Depression and World War II. So, why didn’t that generation effectively (I’m not saying they didn’t try –I’m just evaluating results) pass on the industry and resourcefulness and perspective that they gained by going through that? Maybe there was more bitterness and frustration from having to ration food and go jobless than I see from my perspective. Maybe that’s what explains the indulgence and attitude that “my kids will not go without” that (to me) exemplifies the families I see from the ’50’s. It just seems weird to me that a generation who learned to do without suddenly, once they have money, does a knee-jerk response to binging on stuff and money. I had to do without a lot of things growing up, and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. It taught me to find joy in things other than stuff and to be creative. If I hadn’t had that, I’d probably not be writing this at all. My response to my experience is that I hope my children do have to go without occasionally –not out of a spirit of fairness or vengeance, but because some things can only be learned by struggle and difficulty.
In the Catholic church, poverty is considered a virtue. The “Protestant Work Ethic” holds up industry and resourcefulness as a virtue. Perhaps we should consider combining the two –it did work that way for a while in the early Church, didn’t it? Yes, people aren’t perfect, but think of what would happen if our generation learned contentment and generosity through all this economic struggle and passed the lessons on to our children, rather than holding our breath until the next wave of blessing comes.
I had another revelation yesterday that I passed on to Elanor. She and I both have the same problem of complaining too much, and I shared this thought with her. What is it that makes complaining wrong? Is it that it bothers other people and brings them down? Well, yes, but there’s a bigger reason that complaining is wrong. Complaining shows our lack of trust in God’s provision and sovereignty. Complaining is basically talking back to God. If we know that God loves us and wants the best for us, we will find a peace that passes understanding through whatever He sends us. I have that foreboding feeling that I’m going to be tested on that soon… Thank God for grace.