by Rev Scott Higgins
A central tenet of the consumer culture in which we live is that by getting more possessions and more experiences we will get more satisfaction. And so we invest our time, our energy and our wealth not in loving our neighbour but in acquiring more possessions and more experiences for ourselves.
If we are to become people who lead lives of love for God and others we need to carve out an alternate way of being.
For Christians, an alternate spirituality must begin with the recognition that the centre of reality is a God of generous love and that we are created to image this God to one another. In light of this, we will seek to shape our lives around love for God and neighbour rather than mere experiential satisfaction. A love-based spirituality does not simply add random acts of kindness to a lifestyle that is otherwise self-absorbed. Rather, we will see our careers, our consumption, our use of time, and our spending of our money as opportunities to enjoy the generous love that God has for us and to serve others.
We will see that our call to love extends beyond the circle of our family and friends, that we are not simply called to avoid harming others but that we are called to do good to them. Where people do not know themselves to be loved by God, we will bring the news of Jesus. Where people are excluded, exploited and oppressed, we will seek to build communities in which they are welcomed and included. Where people are broken and wounded we will seek to help them find healing.
In 2008 a young Australian woman, Hailey Bartholomew, found that she wasn’t enjoying life. She described herself as feeling lost and stuck on a treadmill. It was almost inexplicable. She was married to a man she loved and had beautiful children who held her heart. So why was she feeling so down about her life?
Hailey sought the counsel of a nun, who advised her to spend time each day reflecting on something for which she was grateful. Hailey began a project called “365 Grateful”. Every day she took a photograph of something for which she was grateful. It changed her life, for it allowed her to see things she had never noticed. Hailey had always thought of her husband as unromantic. One day she took a picture of him serving up dinner, the thing which she was grateful for that day. She noticed for the first time that the largest portion of pie was placed on her plate. She realised that the largest portion was always placed on her plate and that this was one small but profound way her husband showed his care for her. Hailey had found mothering a “boring job”, but as she took photos of her children holding out their hands to her, playing and exploring, she discovered how much joy and wonder there was in her world. Through the art of gratitude, Hailey found herself lifted out of her rut and celebrating life.
Scripture is filled with injunctions to give thanks to God for the good things in our lives. This is not because God needs our praises but because we need to give God our praise and thanks. Gratitude causes us to slow down and appreciate the many good things in our lives; relieves us of the notion that they are the results of our own hard work; and liberates us from the consumerist illusion that we don’t have enough. It enables us to recognise that the good things we have in our life often come to us as a gift from others and from God and engenders within us a sense that just as we have been blessed by God and others, so we want to bless others.
Gratitude is one of the most significant resources for lifting us out of narcissism and into generous love.
If your church is not taking part in this series, then why not use it to inform your own daily devotionals?
Scott’s insightful, theological study of what it means to be generous will challenge you to grow your concept of generosity. Discover afresh God’s generous love for you! Get The Single Thing That Can Change the World at: www.baptistworldaid.org.au/TheSingleThing.