Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Voluntary Simplicity

Do You Need to be Poor?
"Godliness with contentment is great gain."

I was just reading about George Washington. George means "earth worker," something like geography or geologist. After 6 years of distinguished military service, he went back to farming for 16 years. When the war broke out in 1775 - well, you know the story. He was the principal player in "turning the world upside down" at that time. After the war he wanted to go back to his farm. Instead, he was the only President who was unanimously elected by the electoral college. The same thing happened 4 years later. He received 100% of the electoral votes for a second term. The whole world was watching to see if he would give up his position of power. After the war, King George III, wondered what Washington would do next. When he heard rumors that he would return to farming. He commented, "If he does he'll be the greatest man on earth." Washington refused to run for a third term and went back to his farm.

Some time ago I read "The Short History of Mexico," which recorded one bloody regime after another. Always someone starting another revolution to save the people from the aristocracy. Then when things got tough the new general or monarch would plunder the treasury and split.
In Washington's farewell address in 1796 he advised Americans not to get involved in the bloody endless wars of Europe. Washington and the "Founding Fathers" created, in a miraculous way, the "Greatest nation the world has ever known, whose Constitution is the brightest star that's ever shown." Jimmy Driftwood, Songs of the Civil War.

Earlier I mentioned the song, "Turned the world upside down." A song they played at that time. How is it that our little 13 colonies of New England, defeated the greatest power on earth?
I could go on about many great people in the past who were poor. Small and insignificant, but they had principle. They had talent. They were strong, and their poverty prepared them for the time when they would establish the course of history. Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Martin Luther, Frances Drake, John Paul Jones, Abe Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Einstein, the World War 2 boys who grew up in the "Great Depression", etc. The question is, "Do you need to be poor?" Abraham Lincoln said, "I'm not so concerned with your failure, as I am with how content you are with it."

I think all of the great people in history experienced serious setbacks and failures. Washington actually lost many more battles than he won. The important thing was, he persevered, he didn't give up. That reminds me of the lines from the Revolutionary War song "Soldier's Joy." "Here comes General Washington, He's got his horse and his sweeping run. The barefooted boys are begging to fight. And we're gonna cross the Delaware River tonight." Sometimes I think about my own history. I've been so frustrated. All of my vigilance and extra work produced nothing but starvation. All of my grand ideas and ideals have eluded me. Some people, everything they touch turns to gold. Reminds me of that Merle Haggard song. "In the good old days when times were bad. No amount of money could buy from me, the memories that I have of them. No amount of money could pay me to go back and live through it again."

Why must we learn the hard way? I've told my kids, "The worst thing that could happen would be for you to find a permanent, full time, guaranteed, stuck in a rut job! Where you have total security and faith is not required." Of course, then they all go off to college to do just that. The truth is I have never discouraged them from going to school, and it doesn't really matter as long as they remember that Dad is always right!

The fact is, God is just waiting to bless people. He has "... a thousand ways of providing for us of which we know nothing." E.G.W. So, back to the question. Why do we need to be poor? Why can't we all be rich? Why is there suffering and starvation? The answer lies in this not so old saying, "True success is exactly proportionate to how much we love the truth." The truth is; what most people would spend their money on if they had it, is vanity. Endless things to buy, with no concern for the unfortunate. Who ever attains the most idols wins? Newer houses, cars, trucks, and toys. More vacations, savings, and fancy food. The fact is, wherever the truth flourishes the poor are taken care of. This is God's character, the second tablet of His Law.

The reason most people need to be poor is that they have no self control. The reason they have no self control is that they only think of themselves. The more people have, the less likely they are to even talk to you, if you are poor. The truth is, we think we are pursing our great standard of living, but the Natives, the aboriginal people had a higher standard of living than we will ever know. We have mistaken laziness and luxury and comfort for a true lifestyle and an honest days work.

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