"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Tough, Being Affluent

I don’t know about you, but I typically have some month left over at the end of my money. Christ’s Apostle Paul was a pretty smart guy, maybe I should study his attitude regarding his resources.

Philippians 4:8-13 (ESV)  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  (9)  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me--practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.  (10)  I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.  (11)  Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  (12)  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  (13)  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Bible passages that begin with “Finally” are, oddly enough, called Final Instructions. The author may have used them as a summary of earlier, detailed exhortations. Or he may have added them at the end of his letter for emphasis. This passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians is one of the important ones. Each verse delivers a key element for godly living that, while profound, seems quite logical.

Verse eight recommends eight positive mindsets for dealing with all circumstances. As they are a command, and not a suggestion, here’s a brief review. We must occupy our minds with whatever is:

  • True: Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” Truth is what doesn’t change, but it is an obsolete concept, and trying to define it in terms of today’s mindset is like trying to explain a glorious sunset to one born blind.
  • Honorable: Uprightness, rectitude, nobility. As a character trait, honor is like truth; its standards don’t change with society’s whims.
  • Just: Loving justice. Conforming to or highly regarding the law.
  • Pure: Blameless, unsullied, undefiled, refined as by fire.
  • Lovely: The Greek word means “toward love.” So lovely means living in a way that begets friendly love.
  • Commendable: Of good reputation.
  • Excellent: Virtue, moral goodness, chastity, modesty.
  • Praiseworthy: That would be God, for He is exclusively worthy of praise.

As I commented for True and Honorable, these are all either forgotten or ridiculed in popular culture. And why? Because the world knows they are Biblical ideals, and even though universally “thinking on these things” would eliminate everything that the world considers evil, sin prevents the world system from even considering them.

Verse nine is self-explanatory as the Bible’s quickest tutorial on godliness. So we jump to verses eleven and twelve, where Paul speaks of having learned to be content despite his circumstances, and he introduces the secret to facing both scarcity and affluence. Leaving the details to us, he jumps in verse thirteen to his summation, a paraphrase of Jesus’ words as recorded in Mark 10:27 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God."

So where are these unstated details? With precious little searching I found Paul’s secret for contentment in all things: Gratitude.

Psa 50:14, 22-23 ESV
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High,”
“Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”

Without gratitude, we quickly lapse into grumbling—or worse. Whether rich or poor, we want more, and if we have ambition with no moral restraint, we’ll ultimately do anything to get it. So while living hand-to-mouth with gratitude isn't easy, learning to handle affluence in a godly way can be even tougher.

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