I subscribe to several financial publications. The cover of the latest Money magazine is pictured below.
The headline story is titled "Are You On Track?" The first sentence says "FACE IT: YOU CAN'T HELP COMPARING YOURSELF WITH THE JONESES." It goes on to give tons of stats to compare yourself to. It even gives you a "How You Stack Up" chart that tells you if you're keeping up with your neighbors. This includes comparisons on the value of your home, your income, your debt, etc. etc.
For some reason, this really, really bothers me. If you look at the picture it shows a happy couple smiling for the camera, with the title written over them. Is this what we've been reduced to? Is the our value measured in dollar signs? Or maybe in our physical beauty? Maybe, we measure our value based on the praise of others of our children's accomplishments? Perhaps you're one of those people that only feel cherished when others are lavishing attention on you, and when that attention fades you feel empty.
It makes me wonder, How do we really determine if we are on-track? Who's "track" are we on? Are we on our own track? American society's track? Our family's track? What if there's a better way? What if God's plan for us doesn't involve us counting up all our possessions to determine who's the best person?
Pastor Rob Bell from Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan addresses how truly blessed America is in last week's sermon, entitled Calling All Peacemakers: The questions of a kingdom. The slides that he used during the sermon can be found here. The bottom line is that the United States possess 21% of the entire world's wealth. At no other time in the world's history has this much wealth been consolidated in one country.
The Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12:16-21 says:
16And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'
18"Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '
20"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'
21"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."
Pastor Tim Lucas, from Liquid Church, in a series titled Money, Debt and the Bible, discusses how this rich man realizes that he has too much stuff and has to build a bigger place to store it. His goal is to retire, eat, drink, and be merry. He isn't crazy, HE'S AMERICAN!!! How many of us have three car garages but don't have three cars? Myself included. One of the fastest growing business are off-site storage places. We're paying someone else to store our extra junk.
It all comes down to this. Many of us don't realize how truly, truly rich we are. 92% of the rest of the world don't even own a car, not to say two or three. The AVERAGE American lives in a lifestyle that only Royalty lived before. We are rich beyond compare. If statistics are to be believed, $20 billion dollars is required to provide everyone in the world with basic food, water, and shelter. The US spent $20 billion dollars on ice cream last year.
Think, just think, of how much GOOD we can do. Think about what God expects out of people that are as blessed as we are. Mary and I have spent over $700 this year on presents. A goat that will nourish a family for a year costs $75. We didn't buy a goat. We didn't. But if I look on the "How You Stack Up" chart, I'm right there in the Upper Middle Class. We're so blessed and we couldn't be bothered to buy a goat. So ask yourself, "Are You On Track with God's Plan for You?"