Wasco Tribune - Serving the community since 1970

By Pastor Jim Neal
First Southern Baptist Church, Shafter 

Pastor's Corner - Jan. 16, 2020

The true definition of riches


January 16, 2020 | View PDF

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, a Roman statesman who lived from 5 BC-65 AD, made a statement that should be written and remembered in 2020. He said, "We become wiser by adversity; prosperity destroys our appreciation of the (what is) right."

A very profound statement, isn't it? Especially when we consider it was written by a man who died in 65 AD. This thought kinda runs counterculture to the prevalent thought of today, doesn’t it? In a day when prosperity, ease and opulence seem to be the norm for most people, it might be a good idea to slow down and consider where such ideas have driven us.

I read an article the other day written by a 26-year-old MBA student that really stirred my innards. She began her writing with the profound statement, "My generation is blind to the prosperity around us!" She went on to share how anesthetized her generation has become to the ease and prosperity that permeates our society. However, I hasten to disagree with her; for it is not just the younger generation but, the entirety of the American populace that has grown for the most part complacent to our state of opulence.

Most families have two cars, a warm/cool home, a refrigerator full of food, pockets or purses filled with money (or plastic cash) -- not to mention we carry a cell phone that has more computer capabilities than was even known when man first set foot on the moon.

It is so easy to get complacent to all the glitter, gadgets and gizmos that we lose sight of the most important aspects of life such as love, compassion and community, all of which cost little in dollars and cents. We live in a world where it is too easy to fall prey to the thought that all we need is more money, more programs or a different administration in the White House. The truth of the matter is this, when we “boil down” all our challenges, thoughts and desires, when will come to the realization that it is really a heart problem and nothing else?

It is how we perceive things, not how they really are. In truth, most do not worry about unemployment until they lose their own job, or about the hunger issue until there is no money for food, nor even the housing issue or lack thereof until financial straits hit and they are forced to move to a less desirable neighborhood or worst lose their home.

Those types of incidents are what Seneca refers to as adversities. When they, adversities, hit what happens? Do we become wiser as he suggests, or do we become cynical and blame the system, the government or worst of all others.

King Solomon said it this way in Proverbs 24:10, "If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength (faith) is small." Solomon does not deny that adversity will come, as some in the faith community imply today, but seems to imply that they are a way of life for everyone. The challenge continues; can we remain strong, stay the course and come out a stronger more faith-filled individual in the midst of the adverse conditions. Of course we can, if we remember that ever situation of life, adversity or prosperity, will either make us better or bitter, civil or cynical, thankful or thankless -- it is our choice.

Let me wrap this up lest I become to "preachy" by saying as you look around today, take stock of the blessings that you have received by the grace of God. Do not take anything for granted, but flip it over and remember who or what came into your life to allow you to have or to be what you are.

Smile as your mind brings into focus the adversity that came to bear on you at some point and that through and by faith you weathered the storm and became stronger, wiser and more resilient. It helps to remember the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote to those same Romans that Seneca wrote to when he instructed, “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are the called according to His purpose.”

And for goodness sake do not take for granted the prosperity you enjoy; for truth be told in a world where the medium per capita income is less than $4,00 per year, you are indeed rich.

Jim Neal is pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Shafter.


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