Mine? (Inspired by the seagulls in Finding Nemo of course..)
You won’t know how Wealthy you were until the day of your funeral and you won’t be there, the rest of us will…
What do you want people to say about you that day?
In North America we’ve fallen for a Myth: Wealth is the Accumulation of my Possessions.
My daughter Ailish came around the corner at Costco the other day with my wife where a man was standing who only had one leg. Ailish’s immediate reaction was “Whoah!!!” (I blame the parents…) before mom could intervene. The man was quite good natured about it but Erin was suitably embarrassed and tried to crawl into a crack in the concrete.
As funny as that is, Ailish did very directly and accidentally address the elephant in the room. That’s what this blog will be like. We have a problem in Canada with anyone bringing up the topic of our wealth. It’s MINE! It belongs to ME. I earned it! Don’t ever tell me what to do with MY stuff!
My dad redefined wealth for the Kopes because he didn’t buy the myth that wealth was the accumulation of his possessions. Before entering the ministry and attempting to help people with the rest of his life he was in business and doing very well for himself. During the wage and price controls where no one was allowed to receive wage increases the company he worked for found they could get him the money he was worth by continually reassigning his position and doubling his salary several years in a row. He was worth it to them because of the profit he brought in. He had a new house, nice vehicles, a boat, plenty of toys but then he had an awakening…
The accumulation of possessions wasn’t bringing him Purpose.
I’ve been thinking about this for a few days… Can I actually possess something?
We caught Neela stealing from Katie a couple of weeks ago. Why? Neela apparently has no qualms about the morality of taking something that belongs to someone else if she wants it. Well, she didn’t have any qualms until this situation happened. Now she’d better have some:) Katie already has an iPod because Katie is a great little saver. Neela is the more spontaneous “Give me candy now!” type and hasn’t been able to save up enough for one yet. And she isn’t overly keen on helping mom around the house so ends up forfeiting her allowance more often than not.
“Neela, come here!”
“Honey, did you take Katie’s money?”
Eyes down and feet shuffling: “Yes…” (quietly). (I should note that Neela also thought it was funny to lie but the Kope code quickly intervened. There are only two parts. Actually three if I have to point out the most obvious thank-you-Andy-Stanley: 1. Thou shalt not worship the devil. Just so we’re clear about that… But this is the one Neela had the most trouble with: 2. Thou shalt never tell a lie (lying breaks relationship). Followed by 3. If you EVER disrespect your mother you die. Old school but quite effective… also Erin’s favourite:)
“Baby, that money belongs to Katie. We never ever take something that doesn’t belong to us! We never ever take from family!”
I pick her up and kiss her and send her off to the next adventure.
We’ve always let our kids decide what to do with their own money. I should say here that we’ve trained them that the first part of anything they gain goes back to God and the second part is a small savings. The rest they can do with what they want according to their level of responsibility. It seems we’ve kiboshed several ridiculous propositions but for the most part allow them to make their own mistakes and get smarter that way.
But do they actually possess anything? The word possess denotes something very solid and long term in my mind. I think I’ll talk a little differently about it from now on after my journey with Alice (minus the psychotic episodes) down the rabbit hole this week in regards to two words: Accumulation and Possessions.
Can I possess an ice cream cone? Not really. I might have one but only for a few minutes. Is it Mine? Again, only for a few minutes. If I’m the fixed point on the timeline (we all assume that we are) IT, the ice cream, is not. It is temporal and therefore cannot really be possessed.
So I got thinking about things a little more meaningful like my kids. Do I possess them? I’m definitely responsible for them and am an owner, in the sense that their problems are my problems, but do I possess them? I was born without my kids and will die without them, barring some disaster which one of you with a weird brain might point out to me. But I don’t enter the next life with anyone. I meet my Maker by myself. Do I then possess my kids? They might be my responsibility for 20 years or so, but then comes the next stage of life when they want to “belong” to someone else, and I don’t want to talk about that right now… or ever… That’s the last thing I need: some slobbering teenage boy asking to date one of my daughters. The heck with that.
So then I got thinking about something more permanent like family property. It’s way easier to think of land as a possession than to think of an ice cream cone. And why? Because it’s more permanent. It takes up more space on the timeline. Then I had the thought “No one a thousand years from now will know I owned that piece of land, and no one will care.”
And right then I had the revelation I think my dad had when he decided to shift careers. I’m the temporal thing.
What gives someone the right to possess something? The only reasonable answer might be it’s CREATOR. The only fixed point of reference that never moves or changes. I no longer think I possess anything and I like it better that way…
Then I got thinking about this word. (You may have picked up how my mind works and are experiencing the beginning of pity for my wife. You have no idea….)
Is my purpose in life to dam the river?
To collect, to accumulate, to keep. We say it like this in Canada “We’re storing up for our kids!” Sounds noble but…. I don’t buy it. Here’s why:
Practically they ought to make their own way or they’ll be spoiled and useless. That’s not what I want for my kids. I’m not saying don’t carefully prepare something for them or leave them a business legacy or whatever but you’d better have a specific plan where they understand their purpose clearly and work hard like you had to to get there.
Some people think their brains makes the river flow. That’s great until something happens to their accumulation plan (which is based on fear of lack most of the time especially somehow with rich people), then they find themselves drifting in a life with no meaning because their net worth was defined by how much water they collected. The last thing I want to be remembered for at my funeral is the cost of the car I had. What a great way to waste a life! Regrets! The only actual difference in so many ways between the rich and the poor when they die is the quality of the bed they die on.
We are water dispensers.
True wealth to me is how many people’s souls did I quench of thirst with good, untainted water in my lifetime? How much ran through your fingers to other people, to other causes? To only redistribute your resources by buying your immediate family more things is to keep the water in the small tank you have. It will stagnate and then be good for nothing but people to fight over when you’re not here anymore. Water buys life IF it is given away. Only then.
I was in Haiti and noticed the gas stations were closing in town early one day. When I asked why I was told that they had just received the news that there would be a shortage of gasoline soon. The Haitians were closing up shop to sit on what they had so they could drive the price up on the people in their own neighbourhoods. It wasn’t pretty. The owners might die with more stuff than their neighbours but will die the poorest people in town because of one thing: they fell for the myth that wealth was the accumulation of their possessions.
You and I are coming up against a truth right now. It is this..
Wealth is emptying my cup.
It’s all I’m responsible to do. When I live life with God, He fills my cup but He can’t do it if I won’t empty the tank first.
Is Jesus remembered for the resources of heaven at His disposal or for the one famous and unforgettable outpouring of His life on the cross? The ripples were truly eternal. He was the wealthiest man that ever lived even though He was born in a stable and died between two criminals.
If you aren’t a God-person you need to retrain how you think about wealth or you will never find your purpose on this earth.
If you call yourself a Christian and aren’t generous I’d recommend the ice bucket challenge (sorry if you’re the guy with one leg and I just came around the corner:) Seriously though, it’s not too late for you to pursue true riches…
Myth: Wealth is the accumulation of my possessions.
Fact: The value of a life is always measured by how much of it was given away.