Finding life in unexpected places
I tend to read a chapter of the Bible most days. I try to make it the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning. It doesn’t take long, and it feels healthy to start my day in wisdom curated thousands of years ago rather than jumping straight into the immediate intensity of the here and now.
Though there are plenty of dull sections and seemingly irrelevant instructions, it’s a rare day when there isn’t something that stands out and grabs me.
It might just be a word or a phrase that causes my mind to linger over it. Or it might be something the author is saying I struggle to make sense of. Or disagree with. My point here is simply that reading the Bible always makes me think. Being written so many years ago creates such a clash with our world as it is today that it triggers a level of pondering and reflection I rarely find with modern day writing. It feels like a healthy process to put myself through.
Over the last few days I’ve been reading a letter to a guy in the first century called Timothy. The author, had this to say towards the end of the letter:
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17–19, NIV)
Though I’ve read this many times, I’d never fully appreciated the last line:
The life that is truly life.
In other words, it’s possible to live but not truly live. Or, to borrow a cliche, it’s possible to spend life surviving without ever thriving.
While the idea of ‘putting hope in God’ rather than riches might not be palatable for those of us who are atheists and agnostics, there is wisdom here we can all benefit from.
We don’t need to believe in God to see that being ‘rich in good deeds, and to be[ing] generous and willing to share’ is good advice. It is a sad reality that often the most wealthy are the least generous.
Perhaps the author is aware that the wealthier we are, the easier it is to put our trust solely in ourselves and our riches. And when we do that, we inevitably become more protective of what we have. Instead of seeing it as a gift to be shared, we see it as earnings to be protected.
Whether or not we believe in any ‘coming age’, a foundation of good deeds and generosity is the key to finding a life that is truly life.
Regardless of whether or not God is our thing, putting our full trust in wealth and riches is not the pathways to living life fully alive. It is a path that ultimately leads to selfishness and greed.
It’s tempting for most of us hearing the words ‘wealth’ and ‘riches’ to think of someone else: someone with a bigger house, a more expensive car, and a high powered job. The truth is though that if you’re reading this, you probably have a degree of wealth and riches most people throughout human history could never have even imagined.
We are wealthy and rich in so many ways. We may not be billionaires or millionaires, but we have so much. And that means we are a susceptible to putting our trust in the wrong places and becoming ever more inwardly looking.
The author of this letter offers us a reminder to not let this happen. We need to remain generous, sharing what we have for the benefit of others. And in doing that — not getting more and more money — we will discover the life that is truly life.