“Mommy, I have so many things in my special things drawer. We must be rich. Are we rich?”
This question came while we were in the car, as do so many good and important questions. It’s something about the lull of the ride that stimulates the mind, or more likely, the drastically changing scenes as we drive. There can anything from large houses and well-manicured shopping centers to litter covering the sides of the road and someone on each street corner asking at my window for food, money, anything. There is economic disparity everywhere, but here, where we live, it is pronounced.
Are we rich? I pondered the question, and how best to respond. When we were in the States last year on home assignment, traveling every few weeks and visiting many people’s homes, we felt far from rich. It had reminded me of how different our life is than the lives of many of our peers. And then we returned to South Africa, where, compared to many others, we have much and pray for wisdom on how best to use our resources for the good of our community.
“Are we rich, Mommy?” The question is loaded, and comes from a mind filled with stories of fairy tales, princesses, and wealth; of Little House on the Prairie and lack; of Amy Carmichael and sacrifice. Where does our family fit into this?
“God has given us what we need, hasn’t he? Even more than we need,” I responded. “But even if we didn’t have all of this, we’d still be rich because we have Jesus.”
So much more could be said, for sure. And I’m confident this will be an ongoing conversation in our home. But what does it look like to lean into the abundance of love, the overflow of grace, so freely given us from God, in spite of our physical circumstances, whether we are in lack or plenty, or somewhere in the middle?
I think it looks like choosing to focus our eyes on Christ, regardless of our present circumstances.
There is a prevalent lie, especially from the affluent West, that says we must have a house with plentiful square footage, two cars less than ten years old, the newest version of an iPhone, and our children involved in multiple activities in order to have a good life.
This kind of life stands in stark contrast to Jesus’ own words: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven… for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). Our own dubious idea of “abundance” (perhaps better known as materialism) is one of the greatest threats to our hearts, and to the hearts of our watching children as they see us pursue empty idols.
When we know what our treasure truly is, and from whom it comes, all other forms of abundance pale greatly in comparison. “I have come so they may have life and have it abundantly,” said Jesus in John 10:10. The life Jesus is speaking of has very little to do with material things, and everything to do with the state of our hearts.
Paul admonishes us, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:2-3).
The abundant life that this world has to offer will leave us empty and despairing, but the abundant life of Christ brings purpose, meaning, and joy to our lives. Minds and hearts fixed on Jesus are at peace, in spite of present circumstances, and this is what we can offer the world: peace in Christ, which surpasses understanding, as we are anxious for nothing (Phil. 4:6-7).
And so this season, which is often marked by all forms of cultural materialism, let us pursue the God-honoring goal of fixing our minds and hearts on Jesus, and modeling the same to our children. For life in him is an abundant life indeed!
What kinds of questions do you get asked when traveling? What is shaping your view of abundance?