Life in the Contributors Lane

If it’s going to get done, we’ll each have to do our part and work together!  God made it so His best gifts are not granted without effort, cooperation, and reflection.

Are we waiting for others to clean up their act to make our life better?  Does the world owe us a living?  Do others owe us respect without effort or merit?  Are we a contributor or a freeloader?  Do others feel we bring value and fulfillment to their lives?  Does it matter to us?

We live in a troubled world.  God made this beautiful place and gave gifts and talents to the people He created.  Sin entered the world and with it sickness, poverty, anxiety, misdeeds, and mistrust.  There is plenty of hate, envy, greed, and selfishness to go around.  Nearly everyone is preoccupied with buttering their own bread and dealing with a lot in their lives.  In such a world, why should everybody else focus on you or me?

Contribution is the path to fulfillment.  Fulfillment is a state of completeness, realization of hopes and dreams, satisfaction, belonging, peace, and thankfulness.  It is a positive outlook and a warm regard for others even when they don’t have their act together.  It shines when we deal with uncertainty and difficulty with faith.  It requires us to have our oars in the water.  Where are you and I on our journey to fulfillment?

Heart    Jesus said, “There is none good but one, that is God.”  While not discouraging honest efforts, all roads that lead away from God go downhill.  The hymn writer wrote “For if God possess the heart, sin and evil must depart.”  God sent His son Jesus to die on the cross and shed His blood for sinful men including you and me.  There is no other way to redeem our soul and cleanse our heart.  “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” Proverbs 4:23.

Relationships    How we treat is how we’ll be treated!  People often respond in kind.  If we’re cheerful, it brightens their day so they can return cheer.  If we’re grumpy, won’t they likely be?  If we listen, they are more apt to listen to us.  If we engage, they are more likely to engage.  If we withdraw, they will too. It is nice when others make the first move, but if they don’t, we can step out in a caring and sharing way.  Please read Galatians 6:7-10.

The first step is to stop indulging self and start focusing on others.  This goes against the grain, but Jesus washed the apostles’ feet.  We like to view life as a stage, people we encounter as role players, and we as the star player or director.  We change scenes encountering different people who also change scenes encountering still other people.  Often, this self-centered outlook will not be appreciated.  We can change our outlook.  We can downplay others bringing us pleasure or advantage and seek to benefit the entire group.  And above all, we should seek to please God in the way we work together.  Perspective can turn drudgery to joy!  Think about that.

How we perceive others is more up to us than them.  How others perceive us is more up to us than them.  How can both be true?  Well, maybe it isn’t always, but if we see it that way, we can maximize the benefit to all.  Hopefully, it will inspire others to see it that way too and double the benefit.

Our perceptions are swayed by how much we know (or think we do), how we feel & what’s happening in our life, our expectations, and our biases.  Examining our motives and the evidence can yield more accurate assessments, giving benefit of doubt, and ability to face reality with kindness.  Wouldn’t we like others to treat us that way?

Merit, respect, admiration, and trust must be earned even in our “entitlement” world where we hear, “You need to show respect, man!”  “Give me a break, man!”  Positions (parent, boss, teacher, public safety officer, president, or elder) should be given respect, AND those who hold the positions should make a sincere and diligent effort to act respectably.  Jesus could not respect the Pharisees for their hypocrisy.  Can we respect many of our politicians for partisanship and bickering? Does it feel like they would rather tear the country down to get elected than work together to build the country up?  If we fulfill our role as citizen, employee, family member, friend, neighbor, and/or servant leader, it will make it easier to earn the merit, respect, admiration, and trust of others.  A simple rule is to ‘Respect the position for others and live respectably ourselves.’

Treat others right & avoid exploiting     Our parents taught us not to “take advantage” of others in our dealings.  That’s how I understand exploiting.  The Bible talks about unjust weights and balances.  The merchants were cheating their customers.  Dad always said the one who divides the pie should get the last piece.  Grandpa said Lot should have given Abraham first choice when they divided the land because he was older (not to mention all the land belonged to him).  People say you better look out for yourself because no one else will.  How about guarding the purity of our heart? How about remembering to share God’s talents and blessings with others?  What does the Golden Rule and Philippians 4:8 have to say?  Simple rules are ‘If it’s good, give more and take less.’  ‘Listen more and speak less.’  ‘In trouble or loss, take responsibility and go to God in prayer.’

Work    On life’s journey, work is not the beginning nor the end.  It is an important part of life along the way.  Work is not just what one gets paid for.  It includes chores around the house, every deed of service that enriches lives, and studying and practicing so we can work better.  He who dodges work misses out on accomplishment, contribution, and a sense of camaraderie with other workers.  How do we look at work?  Do we feel empowered or exploited by work?  What do we contribute and what do we receive?  Are we grateful?  What makes us feel good about work?  Is it an honor or drudgery to serve?  What/who makes the difference?

Work withholds many of its’ benefits from those who go about it half-heartedly, as does study in preparation for future work.  As Roger Williams sang, “All you gotta do is set your mind to it; knuckle down, buckle down, do-it, do-it, do-it.”  For those who are able, there is no substitute for work either for the sense of accomplishment it brings or for the benefit to society.  As a boy, I heard the terms slacker and freeloader.  In our family of 16, we knew we had to pitch in and work together.  If you’d be the kind of worker you’d like to hire, you would have it about right!

Government     President Kennedy implored, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  There is often a detached feeling that the government is ‘them’.  In this government of the people, by the people, and for the people, it is ‘us’.  When we cheat the government, we cheat ourselves.  The Bible teaches us to respect authority, that they that are over us are ordained of God, and that we should pray for kings and rulers.  Will we pray for the peace of our country and live as God-fearing citizens?  Listen in on Jeremiah writing a letter to the Jewish captives in Babylon (chapter 29) who did not want to be there:

“Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.  And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.”

 How do we look at paying taxes?  Do we receive legitimate services from government such as use of highways and national parks and public buildings such as the courthouse?  Should we not pay our share?  To what ends would we go to lower our share?

How do we look at receiving benefits?  Do we blame others for our misfortunes and look for someone else to pay what is ours to pay?  While we agree the needy should have a social network, some of this can come from family, friends, charitable organizations, and the private community, as well as government based benefits.  Would we withhold aid to others because the government should do it?  Would we pretend to be needy when we could help ourselves?  Would we falsify an application to receive benefits?  Are our views on government benefits making us more dependent and less willing to be responsible?  The government is carrying an awful lot of debt into the future.

Conclusion         If it’s going to get done, we’ll each have to do our part and work together!  God made it so His best gifts are not granted without effort, cooperation, and reflection.  In focusing on pleasing God and our neighbor and putting our heart into our work and relationships, we will find fulfillment.  Life in the contributor’s lane has clear advantages over the coaster’s, slacker’s, and “Big Me, little you” lanes.  Shall we drive there?

kwm  8/4/2020

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