The Wealth Trap
Do you own your possessions or do they own you?
What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, Godinitiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes (Matthew 6:33-34 The Message).
he promise of Freedom 55, of wealth, ease and early, meaningful retirement has not come as advertised. Technology promised us automation and reduced workweeks. But those dreams have proven false. Does our pursuit of material things, our thirst for consumption, our obsession with technology, free us or bind us? What about the superabundance of choice in goods and services? How many more TV channels do we need? Is multitasking, hurrying, cramming as much as we can into our already busy lives, creating peace or fatigue and restlessness? While there is a danger in reducing life to a sound bite, I am convinced that people are hungry for genuine change. This inner transformation often happens through spiritual practices as we turn our hearts to God. Simplicity is one such discipline, an inward reality that can result in an outward lifestyle. How do we live more simply?
1. Remember who really matters. In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus said: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ ”
Does our pursuit of material things free us or bind us? How do we live more simply? How often are we so bogged down with activities and worries that we neglect to invest in our relationship with God and others? Jesus tells us to: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:33-34). 2. Sit, be still and reflect. In Making All Things New, Henri Nouwen says: “The spiritual life can be lived in as many ways as there are people. What is new is that we have moved from the many things to the kingdom of God. What is new is that we are set free from the compulsions of our world and have set
our hearts on the only necessary thing. Indeed, living a spiritual life requires a change of heart, a conversion. It always involves an inner experience of oneness.” 3. Pray throughout the day. No need for long-winded requests when it comes to asking for strength to give up a lifestyle of overconsumption. Here are some examples of short prayers you can say: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” “God, help me to live more simply so that others might simply live.” “God, hasten to help me, make speed to save me.” Theologian Soren Kierkegaard describes a pure heart, or a life of joy and peace, as “willing one thing.” May it be our prayer to put Christ and his motives at the centre of our lives. God, help us to be focused. Help us to seek your way, your kingdom and love you, our neighbour and ourselves with all that is in us. Major David Ivany is a certified spiritual director who serves with the pastoral services team at Canada and Bermuda’s territorial headquarters. He and his wife are the corps officers at Regent Park’s Corps 614 in Toronto.
Assess Your Simplicity 1. Am I aware of anything that is producing an addiction in me (such as gadgets or technology)? 2. Do I have difficulty sharing resources with others? 3. Are my consumer choices oppressing others? Does my wealth mean poverty for others? 4. Is my speech simple, marked by integrity and honesty? Is my “yes” a yes, my “no” a no? 5. Do I need everything I possess? What things can I eliminate? 6. Who is my Master? If it is Jesus, do I seek first his kingdom? Salvationist • January 2014 • 29
Photo: © iStockphoto.com/ZargonDesign
BY MAJOR DAVID IVANY