In the early years of my business activities, I believed that money was everything. When my wife complained that there wasn’t enough love in our marriage, I retorted that love wouldn’t keep food on the table. Since I believed that material things were everything, I didn’t believe in God or His supply.
That changed gradually after I was introduced to the Bible. I started learning about God’s economic plan, which is based on love and sharing—quite different from the “me-first” materialism that had driven me up till then. This helped me readjust my priorities.
Giving is easier to talk about than to do. This is especially true when it involves sacrifice. On the other hand, the Bible shows that God greatly honors this kind of giving.
“Jesus sat down at the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.’”1
Almost every single day, I’m struck by how lucky I am to work where I do. I’m a teacher at an inner-city school that serves families from all around the world. I work in the library, where it is normal to see, at any given table, a group of four students working together who represent four different continents, four different languages, and four different faiths. The UN could learn a lot from my school.
At my age, people usually start to earnestly think about their future. Besides children, careers, and living arrangements, the subjects of pension plans and capital investment tend to pop up. There are a lot of different possibilities to choose from for financial investments and it’s not easy to decide, since at the end of the day, no one can tell you what the right choice is for sure. Some of the investment possibilities that I looked into are life insurance, real estate, and investment funds, though there are many more.
In the course of working on this issue, I came across an inspiring story about two great men of God. I’d like to share it with you.
Charles Spurgeon, the famous evangelist, and George Müller, the thief-turned-Christian who founded and directed five orphanages, both lived in 19th-century England.
Have you ever wanted to do something to help someone or longed to make a difference in the world, only to have your good intentions sidetracked by thoughts of why your efforts wouldn’t work?
One such occasion happened last summer when my wife and I stopped to eat at a fast food restaurant that serves fried chicken. After placing our order, we brought our trays of food to a table in the middle of the dining area.
Just about everyone is excited to receive a gift. There is something wonderful about knowing that someone cared enough to think about what you would like, shopped for it or created it themselves, and gave it to you.
There is also a special joy in giving gifts. When you find a gift that you know the recipient will love, it’s fun to present it to them. The recipient’s delight becomes a gift to you and inspires you to keep giving. But stop and think for a moment of all the gifts you’ve received in your life so far, and which ones have stood out.
It was Christmas Eve. I was in a hurry, trying to finish my work early and prepare for the evening with my family and friends, when the phone rang. I answered impatiently, “Yes, hello?”
“Merry Christmas, Lilia!” the voice on the other end cheerfully exclaimed in accented English.
When I was born, only a few years after WW2, Holland was still getting back on its feet, and the aftermath of the war and occupation was still visible. I grew up hearing many stories about the things people had endured, and it filled me with deep respect for the sacrifices that had been made, including by those who chose to stay true to their convictions, even to their own harm.
I recently took my teenage son to an ecotourism project in the big Complexo do Alemão group of favelas [slums] in northern Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There are cable gondolas that stop on all five mountaintops, from where we could see the entire bay and all the beautiful mountain ranges. Dotting the mountains, there are also thousands of small huts lacking decent roofs and with bare and unpainted brick walls. Those were the favelas.