, Corbin, KY

July 8, 2013

Not what we keep, but what we give away

The Times-Tribune

CORBIN — All major publishers of newspapers and magazines have a section on finance. Bonds, housing starts, unemployment rate, interest rates, daily stock market transactions, an analysis of companies which have significant gains or losses, predictions of the international and national economy, and international currency exchange rates, are all expected on a daily basis.

All over the world, people are doing what God said they had to do to  make a living — “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your bread.” [Genesis 3:19]. A 40-hour week typifies most who are working. Given the opportunity, many work many hours beyond 40.

An interesting observation of us workers is our determination to spend most of our time and most of our lives making money. The commitment to work to generate money is what most of us do whether we’re scraping to meet our bills — living hand to mouth — or we’re financially secure with an abundant income and savings. We’re prone to earn as much as we can so we can live as comfortably and affluently as we can. So, this quest for ever-more money is very much the popular American philosophy. “The more money the merrier” is our living motto; not so much in word but in action. Epitomizing this insatiable drive for more bucks is seen by observing those who have “done well.” These people who have “made a success of their lives,” are often found working harder than ever to escalate their success.

The scriptural counsel, “You cannot serve both God and money” [Luke 16:13], “The love of money is the root of all evil” [1Timothy 6:10] and… “the seed that fell among the thorns is the person who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth (my italicize) choke it, making it unfruitful”  [Mt.13; 22], all seem to be obscure and oblivious to many seeking more “success.”

This drive for more money could be a very godly and holy pursuit if we follow the adage of Tony Campolo (The Rev. Dr.), “Make all the money you can and spend as little as you can so you can give away all that you can.”

The joy of a personal friend of mine, Ray Jackson, M.D. is something to behold. All his spare time and money is spent with and on the desperately poor of Haiti. It behooves all of us also to take a good look at love and happiness in action — Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Michael Norton, Ph.D (professor of psychology, Harvard) in his new book “Money Happiness” sites the joy of those who give to the needy.

If we have God’s gift of time and talent to make money, we are put in a position of doing great good, soaring in the heights of holiness. Amassing wealth for our own indulgence, however, soon makes it an idol of our worship; making us like a camel trying to go through the eye of the needle [Mark 10:25].

Dying broke, having given it all away in love and service, we are ready to leave this world just as we came into it.

It is not what we keep, but what we give away.

The Rev. John Burkhart  Ph.D, is a retired Episcopal priest and professor of  psychology; blog at inspirationsandideas