But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Why do we desire to be rich? Is it so that we can acquire many material goods and enjoy luxuries? Why do we wish to possess material goods and enjoy luxuries? Surely that can’t be an end in itself? Is it because such spending power is demonstrative of a certain status, power, strength? Why do we wish to have such status, power, and strength? More importantly, if we do have wealth, status, power, and strength, what do we do with them?
Do we lord our dominance over others who are less rich and powerful? Do we hope other people will envy us and bask in our self-glory? Or do we put what God has given us into service of others?
All human beings tend to forget that all blessings are meant to be shared. How many of us think of giving alms when we get our year-end bonuses instead of spending the money on something for ourselves? The truth is, whether we admit it or not, we get very attached to our possessions and the immediate gratification they give us. Although that gratification is short-lived, we choose to remain blind and deaf to the tingling conscience of our better selves.
How long will these things last? Months? Years? A few decades? People fall from grace all the time. What if we lose our earning power? What if we lose our health? What if we die? What if someone we love gets into serious trouble or leaves us unexpectedly? Will our chase for material gratification fill the emptiness? Will it provide us with a compass from which to find our way out of the wilderness of grief and despair?
Sometimes I ask myself a question just to test myself. If, out of the blue, I won (i.e. i did not earn it) a huge sum of money (e.g. few million?), what will my priorities be in using that money? Will my first thought be of myself (pay off debts, give money to my family, save for my children’s education, buy things I had not in the past been able to afford…)? Or will my first thought be to share this unexpected blessing with others less fortunate than me? I’ve even asked myself, would I be able to give it ALL away and thus not have any changes to my current life-style? Could I do that? Would I do that?
The question gets harder with money that I earn because it’s even easier to think of it as MINE. I earned it. It belongs to ME. But even money that we earn doesn’t really belong to us, does it? I think that all blessings in this life from money to friends and family to children are not ultimately owned by us. We are stewards who should be willing and ready to surrender these things when we need to, because ultimately they belong to God and to the greater community.
I’ll be honest. At this point in time, I’d probably want to keep the money for myself and my loved ones first. It’d be great to think that I’d have a financial guarantee for my future, for Zibin and I to be financially independent in our old age and for our children’s education to be funded. But in my heart I still know, there is no guarantee in this life. Even the best laid plans can go awry.
What I seek ultimately, what Zibin and I both seek, is to walk this life faithfully one step at a time. Because I’m not working yet and he’s the one at work, I constantly remind him that his work is not who he is. “Live as God’s servant at work just as you do at home… be faithful, responsible and do your best. Whether you fare well or poorly in other’s eyes does not change how valued you are in God’s eyes. Whether you are rewarded or neglected, your life has purpose as long as you live for God!” I always tell Zibin that I am very proud of him not because of what he achieves or how he is rewarded at work, but because he brings God’s love to his workplace.
We must keep our feet firmly planted on the ground and our hearts deeply rooted in God’s word so as not to let success or failure sway us from our pilgrimage. With greater success in this world, the more challenging it will be to stay on course and to live a life of service. In future, I too will need to be constantly reminded. “Destination… where?”