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Bail-outs, black holes & contentment

The bail-out we’re in real need of doesn’t come from the government, it comes from God.  It’s a bail-out of our old life and into a new one by virtue of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-10).

If you’re struggling to pay your heating bill this month or put food on the table, that can really sound obnoxious and insensitive.  It isn’t meant to be.  It’s meant to help us keep things in perspective.  Providing financially for yourself and others is necessary, noble, and pleasing to God (1 Timothy 5:8).   However, making spiritual provisions is of the greatest importance (Matthew 16:26). 

So if it is offensive to us that taxpayers are, in the worst cases, being asked to foot the bill to bail-out millionaires who have mismanaged their way into fiscal black holes, there’s nothing wrong with that.  But we need to make sure we don’t fall into the trap of thinking that wealth is measured by how much we have to live with --- it is better measured by how much we can live without (Thoreau). 

Think about these three terms:  cost of living, standard of living, and quality of living.

*      Cost of living refers to what is required to have the basic necessities of life (food, clothing, shelter, etc).   

 

*      Standard of living refers to how much we have to live with.  It is a quantitative measurement.  Most Americans enjoy a high standard of living.  We own a home, automobiles, computers, televisions, etc.

 

*      Quality of living refers to the amount of satisfaction we derive from what we have.  Selling your house and buying a different one may or may not impact your quality of living. 

We’ve been acculturated to think that cost of living + standard of living = quality of living.  In other words, the more I have, the higher my quality of life.  That’s the American way of thinking.  That’s why our society is referred to as a consumer culture rather than a contented culture.  It’s also why too many people are making a living, but not a life.  Paul told Timothy, ”But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that,” (1 Timothy 6:8).  The Scripture teaches if we have what we need, we should be content.  In other words, cost of living = contentment. 

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t/can’t have more --- Paul himself spoke of being in circumstances where he possessed  an abundance (Philippians 4:12).  What it does mean, is that we must learn to be content with whatever we have.  We shouldn’t feel that our peace and contentment hinge upon possessing more of this or that (the very idea our culture tends to push upon us!).  Whether God enables us to be in a position that we can afford a new house or a new car or not, it’s okay.  That’s not what our life is about anyway (Luke 12:15).  Quality of living should be independent of our standard of living because true wealth is best measured not by whether you have everything to live with, but whether you have something to live for.

It also means that increasing our standard of living does not automatically increase our quality of living.  This is a common fallacy and one aggressively promoted by advertisers.  But it’s not true --- we can all think of people (perhaps even ourselves), who have more than they ever did, but are no more content.  Furthermore, at some point, increasing your standard of living actually decreases your quality of living.  Too many things can be as much of a problem as too few (Matthew 13:1-8,22). 

The good news from God is that we are not what we own.   Therefore, we don’t need to make the mistake of trying to define ourselves by what we wear, what we drive, where we live, etc.  We are made in our Father’s image.  While we need food, shelter, and clothing, our greatest need is to live as people of faith, hope, and love. 

Our government’s bail-out can never be for more than just a few; God’s bail-out is for all.  Don’t miss it for the world.

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:5-6
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