This has been a week of Thanksgiving. Hopefully you have been able to reflect on all that you have and have thankfulness in your heart and in your mind.
The United States is the wealthiest country in the world. We take for granted the things that we have, things that others in other countries could only dream of having. The poorest of us is considered extremely wealthy by many in the world. Truly we have been blessed with an abundance of wealth.
Wealth, however, is a difficult thing to define when you think about it. When I was growing up in the ’60s and ’70s here in Salida, owning a $40,000 home meant to me that person was a wealthy person; today you would be fortunate if that was required only as a deposit. One of my favorite movies is an old one called, “The Gods Must Be Crazy.” It’s a story about a Bushman who finds a discarded Coke bottle. He had never seen such a thing and took it back to his village. It became a valuable thing used by different people for different things but eventually caused strife in the village. Whoever had the bottle must’ve been considered wealthy because it was such a rare thing and was able to be used in many different ways.
What to us would be considered a throwaway item, a Coke bottle, became a valuable thing to them. Striving for those things that we deem valuable consumes a great deal of our time. A good friend in Northern California had just purchased a home in an area called Willow Glen. He told me it was his desire since childhood to own a home there because that would mean that he had “made it”; having a house here meant he was a wealthy person … in his mind.
True wealth, however, is actually something greater than these things. True wealth is having an abundance of things, and the most valuable thing that we can attain is the type of life that we have. Jesus talked about this kind of wealth when he said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Jesus was teaching his disciples and us his purpose in life was to give us a wealthy life, an abundant life.
So the logical question is what does a wealthy or abundant life look like according to Jesus. Well, Jesus said he does not do anything unless the Father is first doing it. A truly wealthy life was one where that person was being obedient to God. I’ve known many wealthy people and I’ve known many poor people, and both seem to have the capacity to be unhappy in whatever state they found themselves regardless of the amount of stuff or money they had or did not have. Happiness does not seem to be dependent upon material wealth ultimately.
Knowing God and doing what he wants you to do would appear to be the formula for being wealthy and thereby being happy. Is this something you were thankful for on Thanksgiving? Knowing and doing God’s will? Certainly, the main thing God wants you and me to do is to become a follower of his son Jesus.
But wait a minute! I’ve seen many Christians who seem to be going through difficult times in their lives. This is an accurate observation, one that Jesus told us about when he said “in the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). Jesus was making the point to let us know that a wealthy life is not a life that has things but has him.
You see, Jesus was revealing a truth to us that a wealthy, abundant life comes when we are able to rely upon him and his provision, not ours. Everything else in our life that we choose to depend upon is truly not wealth but just the opposite.
Thanksgiving is a great time for us to evaluate whether we are wealthy or not. God does not have a problem with us having things, but he does have a problem if we depend upon those things rather than him or his son Jesus. True wealth comes from following Jesus and depending upon him for the life that we have in the present and also a promised eternal life.
The Rev. John Myers is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Salida.