Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Does My 401-K Bring Happiness? / Street Level Devotions

Luke 9: 23-27
Then Jesus said to all the people:

If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross each day and follow me. If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me, you will save it. What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself or waste your life? If you are ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in his glory and in the glory of his Father and the holy angels. You can be sure that some of the people standing here will not die before they see God's kingdom.

As I write this the United States of America is in financial crises. Some are predicting a great depression, some economic catastrophe, and other a total collapse of our worldwide economic systems. Many of the citizens in America are upset, upset with terms like bailout, and approaches where it appears large companies who overpay their executives are getting preferential treatment. People are losing their homes, there is a threat of job loss, and it seems as if the poor and working middle class continue to be abused by political powers that seem to be in charge.

While this is the case for most of America, it is rather interesting to look at the teachings and perspectives presented in the Bible. While the world seems to have a primary interest in retirement accounts, investments and their 401-K’s Jesus seemed to teach us that there is more to life than this. In fact, being a follower of Jesus is more about caring for others than it is caring for and providing for ourselves.

While some will have issue with this, it seems to be a constant message with Jesus teachings, and is carried out and taught by his followers who wrote most of the New Testament. There is no doubt that the early followers of Jesus, and Jesus himself taught about the importance of doing things for others more than doing things for self.

In one translation, it talks about building up for you treasures in heaven as opposed to treasures on earth. Many have wondered what those treasures are that Jesus is talking about. I think they are investments in the lives of others, whether seeing someone getting to know and have a relationship with Jesus as their forgiver and leader, or, learning more about, and becoming more like Jesus once they have known him.

The movie It’s A Wonderful Life with Jimmy Steward gives a wonderful illustration of the importance of helping others and developing lasting relationships. When all things fail, just like in the movie, the economy, what really matters is the friends you have. It matters what kind of an impact you may have had on the lives of others. Those are treasures that will have a fulfilled meaning, even after we are dead and gone. These relationships will mean something because they are relationships we will have the potential of having forever.

I don’t think Jesus would have us be foolish with our finances, but neither do I think he would have us place our finances in a place above and beyond people. When we do that, we are no better than the drug dealer who is simply looking out for his own welfare not considering the harm he or she is doing to those they pedal their drugs on. While they run the risk of destroying life because of their selfish ambitions, we do the same when we place our financial security above the need of people.

My prayer is that we all place a higher level of importance on the people we come into contact with than we do our 401-k. May we realize that one does us no good when we die the other will have eternal consequences and will go with us to Heaven.

Thought for the day: Dear God, may I spend as much time diversifying my faith by serving others, as I do diversifying my investments that in the long run, will do me very little good.

I love this video by one of my favorite groups REM. The video, titled Shiny Happy People has some great symbolism in it. Just click on the video, and if the video don't appear, click on the following link:

Another one of my favorite groups U2 does a song called, Beautiful Day. One of the reasons I love YouTube is the ability to make videos like the following using It's A Wonderful Life. Enjoy the lyric, and the video.

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