The Hamster Wheel

Over the last several years, I have been on the hamster wheel – climbing the career ladder pursuing the better salary, the nicer car, the bigger house, and everything society has continued to convince us is necessary to be happy. We have been brain washed by society that everyone around us is living a better life driving a more expensive car and having a home with a theater room in the basement. Even taking a reprieve from it all to vacation in the mountains or at the ocean, we get more of the bait of materialism – “You need a house at the beach and a cabin in the mountains.”

The truth of it all is that we are living in one of the richest countries in the world, and if we earn $30,000 a year, we are rich compared to most of the rest of the world. So why is it we can walk silently by homeless people and ignore their situation as if they are invisible? Why can we tell ourselves that we cannot afford to help? It is pretty simple. We have quietly been seduced into this consumerism that all of the marketing firms have hyped. We have slowly been drawn into spending 110 percent of our income by leveraging credit cards, home equity loans, and car loans.

Last summer I went to Venezuela on a mission trip to work in a boy’s home for a week. One week in Venezuela gave me a good taste of what the rest of the world looks like. Older cars and smaller homes dominated the landscape, but the people I met were no less happy than anyone living in the U.S. What got my attention was their generosity. People living on a tenth of what general laborers in the U.S. earned were concerned with the welfare of those around them. They donated money, food, and clothing to those around them that they saw struggling. It was a punch in the gut to see this knowing how much better we live and feeling like we could not afford to help others.

How much do we have to have? How much do we really need? Is it possible to scale back our standard of living and still be comfortable and have margin to be able to make a difference in the world around us? Would we be happier knowing that we are making a difference in our own backyard? Would we feel more fulfilled helping out the people we encounter that are struggling?

We are actually commanded to help what Jesus called, “The least of these”.  In Matthew 25:31-36 Jesus says that when he returns, all the nations will be gathered and the sheep will be separated from the goats, and the King will say “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

It is time for us to step off the hamster wheel and say enough. It is time for us to find contentment with what we have and be grateful. It is time for us to create margin in our lives both financially and in our schedules so we can open our hands and bless those around us.

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