Check the stock market reports. Read business columns. Watch entrepreneurial webinars. The media features the wealthy and powerful, as if they hold the keys to bliss at the helm of their yachts. Millions study their success in hopes of gleaning the secret for themselves. Advisers shout from multiple channels, challenging us to get more from life.
But what if getting more from life rested instead upon what we gave away?
Those driven by financial success end in one of three states: failure, unquenchable thirst, or existential crisis. In answering the question, “How much money is enough” John D. Rockefeller has often been cited as saying, “a little bit more.” Although famed for his vast fortune, he also said, “If your only goal is to become rich, you will never achieve it.” By the time Rockefeller’s assets peaked at over nine hundred million dollars in 1912, he had already donated hundreds of millions of dollars. He raised companies, buildings, and wealth, but most significant of all, he raised the standard of philanthropy.
Fortune seekers either fall short of reaching their goal or discover the secret hollowness of money as its own end. A thirst for more money cannot satisfy the soul. I’ve heard countless stories of successful business owners who found misery at the top of the food chain. History’s wealthiest man expressed his discontent after his assets distracted and consumed him and left him empty.
I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards . . . I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces . . . I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me . . . I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure . . . Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:4-11).
Some look instead to what they can get from people, seeking affirmation and adoration from others. Those who pursue friends and romance to benefit themselves do not experience healthy relationships. In the mission to get more, they end up with less.
Life is a temporary condition. When cured of mortality, we lose all tangible assets. Unless our gains revolve around what we’ve left as a legacy. Impact outlasts us. Our gifts, our blessings to the world, remain long after we exit the scene. If we live to provide others with opportunities to give, the benefit multiplies in endless ripples.
One of my favorite quotes comes from the Christian martyr, Jim Elliot, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Giving energizes, inspires, and blesses us exponentially more than hoarding. Though acquisition doesn’t kill us on its own, the reason to succeed must not greater than success itself. We thrive if our love for others drives us to bless them.
Though few of us carry billion-dollar fortunes in our accounts, we each have assets to contribute. If you give away these five things, your life will overflow with mutual blessings from the process.
Unlike money, we cannot replace time. But giving time to others increases the blessings we leave as our legacy in the world. We cannot measure the effects of our moments until we look back upon years of priceless connections. So, take those few minutes to listen to a widow’s story. Ask how someone’s doing and wait to hear what’s in their heart. People perish from starvation of personal touch. Feed them some of your precious hours to sustain them.
One might suggest love is the sole free gift we can offer, but love isn’t free. Love costs us something. Sometimes it costs us everything. It’s always worth the expense. Despite the appearance of risk, we never have a more solid investment to bank on. Our love for others, whether or not they receive or return it, never goes to waste. The impact of all love on earth touches the heart of God. When we’ve poured out our soul, the Source of Love doesn’t merely offer to replenish. God refills a generous heart to overflow with more than it originally held. We risk more by withholding love than by offering it freely.
We struggle with grace due to the human attitudes distracting us from the truth behind it. We want to protect ourselves and secure justice. That doesn’t me we don’t enforce boundaries or rules at all. We just refuse to adopt a toxic attitude of disdain or hatred. For example, law enforcement can administer consequences and continue to show grace by refusing to demonstrate bitterness or resentment. Contrary to the inherent human fear of grace enabling evil, it is the lack of grace which incites evil. We poison our hearts when turning them to stone, causing spiritual consequences for ourselves. Our attempts to do God’s jobs of protection and punishment disconnect us from a trust relationship with Him. We also must give grace in order to receive it.
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).
When we understand the truth of grace, we can see it as a win-win. I extend grace you don’t deserve, and I benefit. I receive God’s grace (which I don’t deserve) and grow in spiritual health. I don’t have to worry about justice and protection, because God will do His job far better than I could if I tried.
Prayer aligns us with the Holy Spirit and connects us with God’s heart. We strengthen our relationship with the Lord in general when we pray, but we also emulate the nature of Christ when we pray for others. I don’t pretend to understand how it works, but I know from experience how much power prayer wields to bring amazing effects in the world. Praying for others adds spiritual blessings to the affirmation of others’ value to your heart. Offer to pray for your family, friends, and strangers. Pray for those who annoy and ire you most. Even on the occasions when your expected results don’t materialize, intimate time spent with the Lord and softening your heart toward others will revitalize your soul and lift you to a new level of maturity.
This one means something different for each of us. We must give something we would otherwise withhold so it does not keep hold of us. For J.D. Rockefeller, the sacrifices of money and control set him free. Even though I have no fortune, I can find things to donate. My talents and spiritual gifts rank at the top of my priority list for sacrificing. Others might feel compelled to surrender their careers, open their homes to foster children, or toss out the comforts which hold them back from missions. What are you holding now that threatens to tighten a stronghold on you? What would you find most difficult to relinquish your grip upon?
Let me know what you plan to give this week. I look forward to hearing from you.