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10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 20

June 13, 2012

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Dear Friends,

Ambrose Bierce sardonically said “Experience is a revelation in the light of which we renounce our errors of youth for those of age.” I think that each one of us hopes that this is not true. We would each like to think that as we age, we learn from our life experiences (in other words, our mistakes) and actually improve. We still have many things to learn, but hopefully fewer than when we were young.

Here are a few things that I wish I knew when I was twenty years old. These might be a BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) for most of you, but for me, they were not acquired in the first twenty years of life, but in the latter.

#1 – Money Is Overrated: At a recent week-long Bible youth camp, I asked the teen group how many would want to win millions of dollars in the lottery. Most of the hands went up. I then recounted to them the stories from a web site on the misery that was caused by the UNLUCKY souls who won the lottery. There is the man whose brother tried to have him killed so he could inherit his money. There is the man who killed himself after his life came apart at the seams. There are the multiple stories of those who lost family, friends and even all of their money. The consistent comment from most of the “winners” was “I wish I had never won the lottery.” Agur was right when he asked God to “give me neither poverty nor riches.” (Pr. 30:8)

We think that money will solve our problems. The truth is that large amounts of money can cause more problems than they can solve. We often misquote 1 Timothy 6:10. The verse is quoted as “money is the root of all evil”, but the King James version has “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Still, the King James is not entirely accurate as the love of money is not the source of ALL evil. The New American Standard has an even more accurate translation. “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil.” Yet, despite this inspired warning, we still crave money. You would think with such warnings, believers would be the last people on earth to crave riches, but unfortunately, this is not the case. Jesus gives us this solemn warning, “In truth I tell you, it is hard for someone rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for someone rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matt. 19:23-24 NJB) If we are truly seeking FIRST the Kingdom of God, why would we want to be hindered with something that makes it harder to attain?

There is a whole brand of churches cropping up now that teach what has come to be known as “prosperity theology.” The idea is as old as the book of Job, but the premise is God blesses good people with good things and curses the wicked with bad things. If you want to be rich, join the church and start giving it your money. If you give $10, God will give you back $100. If you give $1,000, He will give you $10,000. You would probably not be surprised to know that these churches are among the fastest growing in North America where riches are an obsession. It is not unusual for these churches to number over 10,000 congregants. Many of these pastors wear designer clothes, drive fancy cars and live in mansions because it shows that God has blessed them. God doesn’t want us to be rich; He wants us to be godly.

Money is overrated. The pursuit of money is overrated. The things that money can buy are overrated. I wish I knew that when I was 20.

Religion, of course, does bring large profits, but only to those who are content with what they have. We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it; but as long as we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that. People who long to be rich are a prey to trial; they get trapped into all sorts of foolish and harmful ambitions which plunge people into ruin and destruction– Instruct those who are rich in this world’s goods that they should not be proud and should set their hopes not on money, which is untrustworthy, but on God who gives us richly all that we need for our happiness. They are to do good and be rich in good works, generous in giving and always ready to share, this is the way they can amass a good capital sum for the future if they want to possess the only life that is real. (1 Tim. 6:6-9, 17-19 NJB)

Have a great week,