I had reason to continue thinking about pursuit – something I’ve posted about before. In particular, I’ve been thinking about what it means to pursue the “abundant life.” Lots of people talk about it. Jesus talked about it. Everyone seems to have a different interpretation of exactly what it means.
I tend to think about it in terms of life as it was meant to be lived. This assumes a lot of things. It doesn’t assume that there is a “right” way to live – at least in terms of rules that ought to be followed. Instead, it assumes that there is a trajectory that we should try to find ourselves on and that we should try to get ourselves on in the event that we find ourselves not on it. It also assumes that there is a god or some higher power that has outlined this idea.
We often process this idea as achieving prosperity in some combination of realms. The obvious here is financial prosperity – believing that living on a trajectory towards some right way of living will be rewarded by God with monetary rewards. But there are others – intellectual prosperity, relational prosperity, prosperity of status or recognition. There are many others.
Some would also consider the promise of getting to heaven someday as promise of prosperity.
All of these are hard for me to process.
Don’t get me wrong – there’s a very prominent part of my psyche that craves financial riches, fruitful relationships, deep meaning, and even public renown. I understand the desire for these things.
My problem is that I believe that we all have a grand (even if undefined) purpose and that none of these things really help us fulfill that. Yes, there are those of us who will do our best to attempt to rationalize that mo’ money means mo’ solutions to the world’s problems. But how often is this the case? Only recently have we heard of the mega-rich committing to give away their vast fortunes once they die. Relationships and status really have no bearing if your heart is not willing to give it all up for something greater.
What is counter-intuitive about this whole process is that the pursuit of the abundant life is actually the most selfless activity that we can undertake – that purpose is most often found when we are ready and willing to move ourselves as much out fo the picture as possible.
Instead, what seems to happen is that we’re willing to speak highly of honoring others first until it becomes uncomfortable , or (more likely) a threat to the riches we have accumulated.
We’re willing to help a family in poverty in whatever ways we can until it begins to strain on our own back accounts.
We’re willing to go out of our way to meet with someone that we’re mentoring until it conflicts with our appointment books.
We’re wiling to welcome those with different beliefs and lifestyles until it starts to threaten our ticket to heaven.
Everything that holds us back from really living is rooted deeply in selfishness. How ironic that the only thing holding us back from really living are the things that we’re selfishly holding on to?
Our pursuit, then is not about accumulation, knowledge, finances, status, riches, relationships, or notoriety. Our pursuit is not avoiding sin, or determining right from wrong, gaining heaven over hell – all of these things are rooted in a deep and dangerous self-interest. Our pursuit is towards less of ourselves. Less me getting in the way of loving, caring for, honoring another human being with no self-concerned preconditions.
Less of me competing against you for things that don’t matter.
Less of me sabotaging your pursuits.
Less of me.