Tag Archives: Money

Arianna Huffington Got Something Right

Ariana Huffington delivered the commencement address at Smith College this year. A successful, powerful woman spoke to this year’s crop of young women wannabe’s, and she gave them a powerful message. She fudged on the real power, because she kept everything quite interfaith neutral, but as I read the speech, I was impressed by the fact that she had hit on some important truth that everyone needs, no matter the age.

The president and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post gave the assembled graduates a memorable message. They should each have a copy of it packed in their bags as they leave college. If I remember college graduation at all, my memory does not include the content of the graduation address. I don’t even remember who spoke. These ladies need a take-home copy of the speech which they promise to read and absorb after the graduation glow has subsided. Ariana Huffington recommend that Smith graduates think of success in terms beyond the traditional notion that success is money and power. She advocated that they add some new dimensions to their concept of success:  well-being, wonder, wisdom and service. (Ms. Huffington used the term “give back,” but since I like to avoid liberal/political rhetoric, I choose the cognate term “service” which is more compatible with a Christian perspective.) Ms. Huffington explained all these terms in eclectic, interfaith imagery, but I immediately recognized some basic teachings and truths of Christianity. The uniqueness of Christianity is the person and work of Christ; the moral teachings of Christianity often intersect, if not outright overlap, the moral teachings of other religions. Ms. Huffington’s speech seemed to me to be only half of the story, because people who live in relationship with Christ certainly would applaud her ideas, but they would take them farther.

The first element of the Huffington/Smith College component of success is “well-being.” Ms. Huffington talked about ways to achieve “well-being,” but her suggestions are quite half-baked compared to the teachings of Christ. He wrote a whole sermon on what it means to achieve well-being and what a person needs to do and be in order to experience that well-being. Listen to this:

Blessed are the poor in spirit …

Blessed are the meek ….

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness …

Blessed are the merciful …

And so forth.

There is a way to live that automatically leads to well-being – peace and blessing and fulfillment – and Jesus explained exactly how to live that way. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is not the whole story, but it is a good place to start learning how to live with a sense of well-being.

                The second element of Ms. Huffington’s path to success is “wonder.” She is correct that the ability to experience wonder is crucial to anyone’s quality of life, and it has kept a great many projects going while those who lacked a sense of wonder saw only a persistent slog to the end. Wonder does more than animate creativity, however. The ability to experience wonder is a crucial element of worship. In the book of Revelation, myriads and myriads of worshipers gather in reverent wonder before the throne of God and sing, “Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” (Revelation 4:8) Many people are so blasé about the whole idea of religion that they ignore the greatest possible source of well-being, because they feel too smart and too mature to believe in God. Yet it is God who dwells within Christians so intimately that they can live their whole lives in an attitude of worship, which is real wonder. The apostle Paul wrote, “Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you?” (1 Corinthians 6:19) That statement certainly should have inspired wonder on the part of early Christians, and it inspires wonder today, as Christians try to live the worship evoked by wonder at the majesty of God who miraculously dwells within us even as he inhabits the throne room in eternity. It is the wonder of worship that pushes back the chaos and destruction that forces of evil attempt to impose on our lives daily.

                The third item in Ms. Huffington’s expanded definition of success is wisdom. Anyone who reads the daily news is treated to story after story where human beings display a profound lack of wisdom. When subterfuge, deceit and fraud are uncovered, it doesn’t matter if a person is a Hollywood celebrity or a powerful political official or a rich businessman. It takes a complete lack of wisdom to believe that lies will never be discovered. Reputations, business ventures, even entire countries collapse when a lack of wisdom bears fruit in someone’s life. In the book of Proverbs, Wisdom cries out, shouts and screams, to no avail:

20 Wisdom cries aloud in the street,     in the markets she raises her voice; 21 at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;     at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: 22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?

                                                                (Proverbs 1:20-22a)

As long as there have been people, Wisdom has been ignored by people to their very great shame and loss. Jesus told his follower that they would need wisdom in order to have good lives when he said, “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”(Matthew 10:16) Wisdom often means making choices that are personally costly, choices that don’t build toward the accepted definition of success as money and power. Sometimes wisdom requires the willingness to do what is not profitable, because wisdom and truth go hand in hand.

                Ms. Huffington’s final element of her amplified definition of success is “service.” She calls it giving back, because Ms. Huffington thinks in line with progressive political mantras. She is convinced that the young women at Smith College owe the state and the community for their current level of success, and they must pay the state and the community back for the contributions that have brought them this far. This is what was in the back of her mind when she used the term “give back.” However, Jesus had a much bigger view of the dimension that makes life rich and good. Jesus said that the most important thing anyone could ever do is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39) In short, love God and serve your neighbor. You could even say that if God is first in your life, you will automatically serve your neighbor, because your neighbor will be as important to you as yourself. People like Mother Teresa who exemplify this teaching show us what real success looks like.

                Ariana Huffington gave a great speech to the graduates of Smith College. But if they want great lives, they need to get the details from a relationship with Christ. It is in relationship with Christ that human beings find real fulfillment and success.

 

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It Takes Faith to Say Yes

Mike Glenn is not an economist, a fact he readily concedes, which may make you wonder why he then proceeds to attempt an economic analysis. When you read the book, don’t dawdle over this part. It is more of a rehash of political speeches than a picture of the economy. In fact, you could simply skip pp. 169-171 and be just as well off. The remainder of chapter 13 is very well done, except for overuse of the word greed. You will be hard put to forget the political definitions of the word, even though that is not what the author is talking about.

 

What is he talking about? Here is a selection

 

Gluttony – I don’t just need this. I need all of this.

Insatiability – I am hungry, and when I eat, I am still hungry.

Self-indulgence – I deserve the very best.

Avarice – I not only know how to make money. I know how to make money by hurting my competitors.

Covetousness – I have lots, but you still have something, and I need it.

Materialism – Don’t talk to me about things I can’t see.

Acquisitiveness – I have lots, but I don’t have that one.

Longing – I can’t die till I have one of those, and I think I will die if I don’t get one.

Craving – I can taste the essence and smell the aroma and feel the silkiness and hear haunting pipes and see that voluptuous shape.

Appetite – I will have it, and I will shape every day yet to come in order to have more of it.

Acquisitiveness – Tell me when the next new one will be released. I must have the first five.

Stinginess – I know I have ten of them I the cellar, but I might not be able to get another one. No. Find your own.

Selfishness – Just make sure that before anybody buys any more I get all I need.

 

There is a single problem at the root of all these attitudes and behaviors. Doubt. The opposite of Faith. Mike states it this way: “the hard truth [is] that … I am not completely convinced of the message of the gospel.” He doesn’t mean that he hasn’t received Christ as his Savior. Mike Glenn simply means that much as he believes that Christ has saved him from Satan, he isn’t quite sure that Christ is enough. For a pastor to confess this problem ought to comfort every reader who was starting to squirm at the message of this chapter. We are all human, and we all have our doubts, and our doubts about the gospel are at the root of our need for more and more new things. All those attitudes and behaviors that are listed above grow out of our doubt that Christ is enough.

If we really believed that God loves us so much he was willing to suffer and die for us, we would never doubt that we could share with people in need and still have enough. The rich young ruler is no different from you or me or Mike Glenn. He was so sure that he would starve if he gave up his wealth that he walked away from the Savior of the world. Mike confesses that, try as he will, he still does the same thing. Me, too. I can tell you right now that I don’t have the faith of that widow who put her last mite in the offering at the temple. I don’t have that kind of faith, even though I know for a fact when my next check will be deposited in the bank, and I know how much it will be. There are a lot of certainties in my life, but I cling to my budget and I always doubt that I can give anything when I am faced with real need.

Paul wrote to human beings who suffered from doubt, too. Just like me, they were not sure that Christ was enough. They had the same issues I have with want and need, and they had the same doubt that Christ loved them enough to give them enough. Paul told them, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” With thanksgiving? If we listen to the news or to our political candidates, we would believe that there is nothing to be thankful for. If the Philippians spent much time thinking about Rome or the emperor or the corruption of the Roman government, they would not have had anything to be thankful for, either. Political leaders, secular thinkers, idolaters, and pure scoundrels all tell stories of present chaos and impending doom in every age. Unless we have the faith to give thanks for Christ’s love and care before we get around to asking for what we need, we won’t have the faith to ask. We will never hear Christ’s “Yes.” Yes, you have enough. Yes, I love you. Yes, I will always be with you. Christ’s “Yes” is the gift of his presence and his power and his life-transforming grace that shows us when we actually have enough. 

Some people truly believe that they can count on Christ’s “Yes.” They trust that he will provide, and no matter how much he provides, they trust that it will be enough. Some Christians say “Yes” to Christ’s “Yes” and trust him for everything. Here is an excerpt from the Handbook of the World Mission Prayer League .

The Mission’s financial policy believes and assumes that God is faithful, and may be counted upon to provide in every way, both spiritually and materially, for the advancement of his kingdom’s work around the world. The Mission, therefore, does not curtail or delimit its activities on the basis of a formal budget, or pledged and calculated income. New workers are accepted, commissioned and sent without requiring that there first of all be money in sight to support them. No stated salary is pledged or promised to any worker wherever assigned. All workers in the Mission, whatever their location or position, share impartially in the distribution of living allowances made each month out of the general funds of the Mission.

Do you have the faith to say “Yes” to Christ’s simplicity?

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