How’s Your Outlook?
Imagine the current global population of over seven billion people arranged in one massive single-file line. Picture yourself in the line. Regardless of how you rank in the American economic scale, you will be near the front of the line simply because you live in the United States. More than a billion people around the world now live on less than $1 per day. The U.S. represents 4.5% of the global population but nearly 30% of its total GDP.
Up the line are the people who have more than you. At the front you find people like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and other mega-billionaires. At the back of the line might be a 2-year-old orphan girl from Sudan with a distended belly, taking her last breath due to extreme starvation. There are millions like her at the back of the line.
Here is the question: What is your outlook from your position in the line? Are you spending most of your energy looking up the line at those who have more than you? Are you investing energy looking down the line at those less fortunate? Is your approach working for you? How does it affect the way you live every day?
All of us have some very important options in our outlook from where we stand in the line.
LOOKING UP THE LINE?
It is customary for high-achieving Americans to spend most of our energy looking up the line. We are ambitious people. We are also bombarded by advertising and television shows that seek to convince us that the key to real happiness and significance is somewhere up the line.
If we spend most of our time looking up the line, comparing our situation with those who are more “rich and famous”, we typically reap the internal fruit of ingratitude, discontent, greed, and even idolatry.
LOOKING DOWN THE LINE?
Most of the world is down the line…VERY far down the line. Unless you have travelled to some of the poverty-stricken nations, observed the masses of broken lives, and been touched by the sights and smells of human devastation, it can be hard to even imagine life for those billions who live “down the line” from you. It is not so hard to imagine friends and family who are not so far down the line, but who need help and encouragement from us.
If we do our best to focus down the line, cultivating a greater awareness of the deep spiritual, social, and material needs of others, we usually become more grateful, humble, compassionate, and sacrificial in how we think and live.
LOOKING BELOW THE LINE?
It is also important to look below the line in both directions. Deeper than the surface appearances of wealth or poverty we often discover the real “happiness” factor of daily life. This “below the line” happiness has much to do with an authentic walk with Christ, quality relationships, gratitude for the simple gifts of life, and a willingness to choose joy in all circumstances. Both experience and the Bible tell us that moving up the line does not guarantee greater satisfaction. In fact, we usually find just the opposite can be true.
Jesus stated that a man’s life does not consist of the things he possesses (Luke 12:15). Paul warns that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil that can pierce our soul (1 Timothy 6:9-10). The Bible consistently honors the poor, not as an endorsement of poverty or laziness, but as recognition of the humble and gracious heart that is often exhibited by the less fortunate, even in tough circumstances.
Obviously, God blesses some people to move up the line so that they can use those blessings as stewards to advance His kingdom. Others are “driven” up the line by an ambition that eventually backfires and robs them of true well-being.
LOOKING ABOVE THE LINE?
Probably the most important look is the upward look. Above the line of humanity is a good, sovereign, and just God. He knows where we are on the line. His providence allows us to be there. He knows the beginning from the end and our times are in His hands (Psalm 31:15). He will guide us as we move up or down the line.
Keeping our eyes focused on Him in humble trust and active faith is one of the keys to a healthy outlook. In obedience to His word we should work hard, be aware of open doors, be generous stewards, diligently serve others, and let Him guide our steps as we live on the line.
IS YOUR OUTLOOK WORKING?
As we live on the line of humanity, we must recognize the choices we have in our outlook. Each of us can choose the approach that works and cultivates a good and godly growth in our lives. As I often say, “The hardest thing about the Christian life is that it is so daily.” Every day we must ask God for the grace to choose the best perspective, and then trust Him as we seek to live faithfully and fruitfully on the line – and for the sake of eternity.
Copyright © 2013 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.