“The agenda of the world – the issues and items that fill our newspapers and newscasts – is an agenda of fear and power. A huge network of anxious questions surrounds us and begins to guide many, if not most, of our daily decisions. Clearly those who pose these questions which bind us have true power over us. Jesus seldom accepted the questions posed to him. He exposed them as coming from the house of fear. They did not belong in the house of God.” –Henri Nouwen, theologian
As I approach Thanksgiving, it seems like the opportune time to reflect on a perspective on our world that is often drowned out: hope. In the midst of constant attention on government spending, huge deficits, foreign ownership of our debt, world terrorism, two wars and potential epidemics, the biggest long-term threat to our culture may be that people are becoming disheartened. As people of faith and caregivers to our church staffs and congregations, hope is our gift.
To put my hope in perspective, I’d like to share some facts with you:
• In North America, our average wealth is estimated to be more than $50,000 per capita, while most of the rest of the world is estimated at less than $2,000.
• The Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans only controls about one percent of our nation’s wealth and one-quarter of one percent of the world’s wealth. People like you and me, who own mutual funds, inside and outside retirement plans, hold it. We control the majority of the capital that is financing the future.
• A recent study of business school graduates tracked the careers of 1500 people from 1960 to 1980. About 83% wanted to make money first so they could do what they really wanted, whereas 17% pursued their true interests first. After twenty years there were 101 millionaires. Only one came from the first group and 100 came from the people who pursued their true interests.
It is human nature to see reality according to our personal experiences. If you are having a tough time financially, it’s hard to see a silver lining, and the temptation is to believe that this singular circumstance colors everything
As Christians, however, we have the extraordinary gift of having a faith that allows us to see things from the eternal perspective of God. If you stop and look at the prosperity of our country over the past century, you can actually see the recent recession has been little more than a blip.
In the Garden of Eden, the serpent created in Adam and Eve a sense of scarcity. The serpent’s trick, then as now, is to turn God’s staggering abundance and gracious protection in to frightening scarcity. The serpent lied, and we were taken in. Despite the evidence that they (we) live amidst overflowing abundance, we are made to feel it’s not enough. However, God repeatedly assures us that his grace is sufficient.
As we move into this season of Thanksgiving, I wish you, your family and your church family the true peace that comes from living in a state of hope and gratitude, not fear.
Paul tells us in Colossians 3:16, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom … singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”
President, Church Benefits Board