Monday, January 9, 2017

Recipe for the Good Life

            EVER watch “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”? That 80’s and 90’s show that Robin Leach and Shari Belafonte hosted detailing how the better half (read: richest) sector of society lives? The show that made us drool with envy. The show that made us wonder what it takes to get that kind of money to live that kind of lifestyle.
            Fast forward to the 21st Century, with its nauseating lineup of reality television shows, most of which showcase and promote wanton immorality, greed, gluttony, and a visceral, exhaustive hunt for stardom. The shows that try to convince us that the characters are all living the “good life” until one or more of them claws through a vicious divorce after the partner has committed adultery, another one ends up in jail for drug charges or some other rap, or one has been found living a secret life that stuns the family and causes the show to implode.

            And what about social media? While it can be helpful and positive, so often it exacerbates society’s current obsession with living in the spotlight and capturing a moment of fame. Questionable, privacy and reputation-rupturing pictures are taken and posted; inflammatory, and often-libelous words are splatted on the screen for the world to read; or a one-sided or fake news report goes viral. As my husband is fond of saying, “It’s like writing on a bathroom wall.” For so many of us in today’s world, racking up “friends” you’ve never really met, having someone respond to your blog, or living vicariously through a reality television star is how we’d define success and “living the good life.”

            Now, while I’ve never been a reality television groupie, I do admit to eyeballing “the Joneses,” wherever they may be, taking notes on their riches and possessions, and trying to keep up with them. And I’ve found it exhausting, agitating and pointless. Why can’t I just be satisfied—content—with what I have? Why can’t I be grateful? (A friend of mine says she never goes to the local Home Shows because she just gets frustrated looking at everything she doesn’t and can’t have!) Since I live in Western Society, my frame of reference tells me that all people have the tendency to lust and covet. People in less developed countries think that it’s Westerners who are the sole sufferers of it. I won’t argue who’s right, but I will argue that all men are prone to sin, and since God put “Do not covet (lust after)” on his top ten list, along with do not commit adultery (which ends up first being coveting and then going beyond it with someone else’s spouse), I’m going to guess that we are all guilty of it at one time or another in our lives. Lusting or coveting after something or someone. (And Jesus smacks us between the eyes when He says that just lusting after another person is committing adultery!)

            So this year, I’m asking myself, “What’s the formula, the receipt for living the good life?” And lo and behold, I found the answer within days after asking the question, in the Bible epistle I was reading, the first one St. Paul addresses to the Thessalonians. Right there in the middle of chapter 4, verses 9-12. The section is title: “A Brotherly and Orderly Life” in my Bible. And it gives us an overall picture of what the good life, the happy, content life looks like. Essentially Paul says:

1) Increase more and more in your love for one another,
2) Aspire to lead a quiet life,
3) Mind your own business,
4) Work with your own hands,
5) Walk properly toward those outside of the faith.

            And why, does Paul imply that we need to live like this?
            So that we may lack nothing.

            Wow! Pretty basic and simple, right? At first read it would seem so. But is it really that easy to love one another, let alone increase more and more in it? To do that, we need to love one another like we love ourselves, and consider others more highly than we consider ourselves. Not an easy achievement.

            And how many people today aspire to lead a quiet life? They want action, to lead, be considered leaders, draw attention to themselves, live in the limelight. This passage suggests that, contrary to the world’s recipes for success, we aspire to a life of humility, reserve, and unpretentiousness.

            And then there’s the next one: Mind your own business. Now that’s a good one! When’s the last time you heard gossip because you couldn’t peal your ears away from it, or actually shared in the passing of it? When’s the last time you gave your opinion of something even though it wasn’t required, suggested, or requested? When’s the last time you posted a cynical retort to an online article or Facebook post. I think this one is HUGE. Our world would be profoundly impacted for the positive if most of us did more own-business-minding. (Indeed, sometimes we need to stick our noses in someone else’s business in order to make sure justice is done for them, but that’s not what I’m concentrating on here.)

6) Work with your own hands means labor so you can eat. Don’t be lazy and slothful, don’t take what isn’t yours, and don’t make it a habit to mooch off others.

7) Walk properly toward those outside the faith. The Message states it this way: “We want you living in a way that will command the respect of outsiders, not lying around sponging off your friends.”

            I think it has to do with our witness. It’s not just our reputation at stake but the Lord’s. What we do and say will reflect directly upon Him, and others are surely watching. Many are trying to catch us “in the act” of being unloving and un-Christian. They’ll be thrilled to gleeful status when they see it happen! Paul warns us to guard against that happening by guarding our behavior, attitudes, and words. It’s action oriented. People pay more attention to how you live than to what you say, although, as I’ve covered before, we always need to be able to give a reason for our hope. And sprinkling our conversation with God’s truth, often in a way people don’t recognize, is highly recommended!

            Go through the list this week and jot down some notes in your journal about how you’ve been doing in regard to it. In what areas are you excelling? In what areas do you think your life needs to change? What points do you need to address? Pray over them. Ask the Lord to point out the weak areas and help you in those weaknesses, which He will be faithful to do.

            And next week I’ll do a little expounding on living the good life!



May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).