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When the Rich Become Poor and Poor Feel Rich

My first job after graduating from the University of Delaware was the Workcamp Coordinator for the Methodist Action Plan. I was a social worker who made $500 in my first summer of living in the real world. Since I couldn’t afford rent, I slept on a couch in my sister’s basement. I got hired as a part time youth director in the fall and did a series of odd jobs to survive. Financially, I was poor but spiritually I felt rich due to a number of godly relationships.

As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be proud and arrogant and contemptuous of others, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches, but on God, Who richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for [our] enjoyment, 1 Timothy 6:17.

While writing a teenager pastor, the apostle Paul warns Timothy of how members of his congregation will be influenced by wealth. Perhaps Paul is reflecting upon the beatitudes mentioned at the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:1-12. Jesus brings this mentality full circle in Matthew 6:33-34 as money devalues an individual’s trust in God. When wealth is used to make problems disappear, this spiritual obstacle makes many rich people poor in faith.

[Charge them] to do good, to be rich in good works, to be liberal and generous of heart, ready to share [with others], 19 In this way laying up for themselves [the riches that endure forever as] a good foundation for the future, so that they may grasp that which is life indeed, 1 Timothy 6:18-19.

The happy medium between wealth and poverty is contentment. While doing a couple of mission trips in the mountains of Appalachia, I was stunned by their thankfulness for everything they owned. Despite having next to nothing in their homes, these were the happiest Christians I have ever met. As I have transitioned from a poor teacher at a Christian school to a member of the middle class, life gets more complicated the wealthier you become. Yet, when a generous heart joins a spirit of contentment, faith places life into its proper perspective. Subsequently, rich and poor is merely a state of mind.

by Jay Mankus

When Misery Leads to Desperation

After graduating from college, I spent my first six months in the real world serving as a social worker. I made $500 for the entire summer before getting a part time job as a youth director. I made $100 a month, lived in my sister’s basement and slept on a couch. After being accepted to attend a Youth Ministry Trade School, I needed to raise $500. I volunteered at my home church, painting the entire basement, hoping to earn enough money. When my car broke down just before Christmas, I didn’t know how I was going to get to Minnesota, let alone pay for it. This moment of misery conceived a spirit of desperation to do whatever it took.

And He said, There was a certain man who had two sons; 12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the part of the property that falls [to me]. And he divided the estate between them. 13 And not many days after that, the younger son gathered up all that he had and journeyed into a distant country, and there he wasted his fortune in reckless and loose [from restraint] living. 14 And when he had spent all he had, a mighty famine came upon that country, and he began to fall behind and be in want, Luke 15:11-14.

Jesus tells a story about a boy who was of a similar age. Based upon the passage above, this young man saw his surroundings as dollar bills. Instead of waiting his turn to receive his father’s inheritance, this selfish boy pressed the issue, convincing his father to divvy up a nice lump sum of money. The Parable of the Prodigal Son reminds me of Jason Stevens’ character in the film the Ultimate Gift. Spoiled by a billionaire uncle, Jason spent his families wealth in a lavish and reckless manner. This privileged lifestyle continued until Jason was left behind a series of gifts following his uncle’s death. After being cut off from his mother’s inheritance, poverty led to misery, being homeless led to desperation, sowing a seed to change.

So he went and forced (glued) himself upon one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed hogs. 16 And he would gladly have fed on and filled his belly with the carob pods that the hogs were eating, but [they could not satisfy his hunger and] nobody gave him anything [better]. 17 Then when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father have enough food, and [even food] to spare, but I am perishing (dying) here of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] make me like one of your hired servants, Luke 15:15-19.

You don’t have to be rich or poor to experience misery. If your career, job or life isn’t fulfilling, emptiness will conceive a desire to alter your course, direction or path. The longer you continue toward this dead end, souls will hunger for change. As soon as the prodigal son began to crave the sloop fed to pigs, he finally came to his senses. The moment misery hovers over you, human beings get restless, eager to get out of their predicament. As conditions worsen, desperation drives the helpless to act. May this blog remind you that it’s never too change to change, no matter how grim your current situation may be.

by Jay Mankus

Faith vs. Science

When my son was admitted to A.I. Dupont Children’s Hospital in early August, my faith was put to the test.  After Daniel’s diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes, there is a set of requirements made by doctors and staff for parents which must be met prior to releasing your child.  Beside viewing a series of videos, parents must meet with a nutritionist, psychologist and social worker.  During my final conversation, I was asked about how I was doing.  My response,”it is what it is.”

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him, Hebrews 11:6.

What I meant is that my heart is holding out hope that Daniel’s pancreas will be supernaturally restored to its previous working condition.  Yet, statistics suggest there is only a three percent chance of this miracle occurring.  Subsequently, I am wrestling with what could be through the power of prayer and what is based upon science.  As a believer I don’t want to ignore past answered prayers, but I don’t want to set myself up for disappointment with the odds of healing stacked against me.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, Hebrews 11:1.

One of Hollywood’s best examples of this dilemma can be found in an episode from Lost entitled Man of Science, Man of Faith.  In the season 2 debut, Dr. Jack Shepherd has a flash back of a previous surgery.  A woman named Claire is being prepped for major back surgery following a car accident.  Talking with her fiancee, Jack is bluntly honest suggesting there is little hope of ever being able to walk again, likely paralyzed for the rest of her life.  However, upon examination of Claire after the surgery, Jack realizes that science lost and faith won.  Whatever trial stands in your way, may the power of the Holy Spirit lift you up as you await answers to your concerns and troubles in life.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

A Not So Happy Thanksgiving

For most of my days, I’ve lived a sheltered life.  However, my first job after graduating from college brought me to inner city Wilmington, Delaware as a social worker.  My eyes were opened to the homeless, poor and unfortunate.  This experience led me to serve the needy during my first Thanksgiving in Chicago, going to a homeless shelter near Cabrini Green, one of the roughest projects in Chicago.  I didn’t see any television cameras or professional football players handing out free turkeys, what I observed was a not so Happy Thanksgiving.

Everyone should get of their comfort zones once in a while to see what its like on the other side.  I’m not talking about Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd in Trading Places.  Rather, I think its healthy to see how little other people have so that you may begin to appreciate all the things you have accumulated in life.  Fashion, shopping and temporary pleasures blind most individuals to what’s really important: family, faith and fellowship.  Without this type of perspective, a spoiled generation will continue to whine, “what’s in it for me,” while the less fortunate have another not so Happy Thanksgiving.

Clothes, food and a place to call home is foreign to some individuals.  Though many may receive a Turkey to cook, how long will the leftovers last?  Will some have to wait til Christmas before the next act of generosity finds these helpless souls?  Therefore, as you watch the parades, gather for a feast and watch some football for dessert, don’t limit your giving to a couple of times per year.  Rather, take a look around and see who you can help so that a not so Happy Thanksgiving can turn into a very Merry Christmas.

by Jay Mankus

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