By Torben Bergland
Though one day we will die—unless Jesus returns first—all the other days are opportunities to truly live. We may die once, but every other day is a day to live. So, how then do we live? What constitutes a life carefully invested, as opposed to a life recklessly spent?
In money matters we frown upon reckless spenders. Many have ruined their own lives and those dependent on them through reckless spending. Short-term pleasures from reckless spending weigh little against long-term suffering. The outcomes of reckless spending are a heavy and crushing burden. Careful investment for the benefit of oneself and others is far better. Everybody knows this. Still, people continue to be reckless spenders until they have nothing left to spend.
But how do we fare in matters more important than our money? Are we recklessly spending our lives, or are we carefully investing day by day? Do we recklessly spend our lives until we have nothing left to spend? Do we lose out on life and lose life prematurely because we did not get our priorities right? Unfortunately, the most frugal in money matters may still be reckless spenders of life with outcomes more devastating than ruined finances. A ruined life, now or in the future, is a high price to pay for failing to invest appropriately in life.
Careful and faithful investment in life will always be in the Lord and through the Lord.
So, how then do we live as careful investors in life? Where may we faithfully invest in order to reap the greater gains for ourselves and others?
When the people of Israel were at the border of the Promised Land, Moses gave one of his last appeals to them: “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you. . . . Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life” (Deut. 30:15, 16, 19, 20, NIV).
Careful and faithful investment in life will always be in the Lord and through the Lord. Making Him the center of life and abiding in His principles for life is the most assured investment we can make in order to “have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10, NASB).
His fundamental principles for life may be traced back to the origin of humankind. In Eden, which name is linked to the Hebrew words for “delight” and “pleasure,” God intended for life to be good. God created life and the world to be abundantly beautiful, delightful, and pleasurable. From the Genesis account of the origin of humankind, we may explicate broad, yet fundamental, principles for life.
Life for humankind was a gift. After having received the breath of life from the mouth of God, Adam and Eve were given each other and the world. Then evening fell, and Sabbath began. Adam and Eve were given everything—life, each other, the world, and then rest. Life is receiving what God gives, and there is nothing to desire beyond what He Has given.
Unfortunately, since then humankind has striven to take what they were not given and have trusted in themselves rather than relying on God. Adam and Eve were given everything, except the fruit of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:16, NIV). But Eve desired and ate exactly that, Adam shared in it, and evil and death ensued. Whenever man craves and claims something God has not given, evil and death are the outcome. Only what God has given is good. Therefore, our first principle
of living abundantly is to appreciate, to be content with, and
to be grateful for what God has given.
Life for humankind began with rest. After having received so abundantly, evening fell, and Sabbath began. The Sabbath was the last day of God’s Creation week, but the first full day of man’s life. Though he had not done much and was not tired, he was invited to rest in what God had done. Nothing can be added to what God has done. What He has done is sufficient and good.
Unfortunately, since then humankind has violated the principle of restful living in body and spirit. Humans need spiritual rest, the weekly rest, and the nightly rest. If these needs are not honored, they will recklessly spend their lives. God gave us the Sabbath and the night. In the circadian rhythm of Eden, the night precedes the day. Rest precedes work, both in the spiritual realm and the physical realm. Therefore, the second principle of living abundantly is to invest in restful living in the spirit and in the body.
In the Creation story, God affirmed again and again that everything He created was good. Still, even before sin entered, He pointed out one thing that was not good: “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Gen. 2:18, NKJV). Adam entered life in the delightful Garden of Eden and fellowshipped face to face with the Creator God. Still, it was not enough. It was not perfect; it was not sufficient; it was not good enough. God lay down in the heart of man a desire for something more—the desire for companionship with someone who was his equal.
Unfortunately, since then humankind has tended to become either overly materialistic or overly religious to the neglect of their fellow humans. Underlying both is selfishness. As men and women cannot live fulfilled lives without the intimate loving relationship with the Creator above them nor the creation below them, neither can they live fulfilled lives without the intimate loving relationship with the creature beside them. We are created for fellowship with others of our kind—in marriage, family, friendships, and the larger communities. Therefore, our second principle of living abundantly is the harmonious connection with the Creator above us, the creatures beside us, and the creation below us.
At Creation, humans were appointed to be reflections of God as they ruled over the creation in the image of the Creator. Though they could never add to God’s creation, they were “to tend and keep it” (Gen. 2:15, NKJV). Through this activity they themselves would be blessed and stay healthy.
Unfortunately, since then humans have exploited and abused the creation rather than cared for it. Rather than being the guardians of creation, they have become its greatest adversary. Through the estrangement from creation, from tending and keeping it, humankind itself is suffering. Physical inactivity is a leading cause of lifestyle illnesses, and lack of purpose and meaning in work is prevalent. This is not what God intended for the ones created in His image. Therefore, our third principle of living abundantly is activity in harmony with what we were created for.
As God gave Eden for men and women to live in, He also provided what they needed to live abundant lives. Following Creation men and women were to live off the fruits of the trees in the Garden (Gen. 2:16). After the Fall, they would also eat food from the ground and plants of the field (Gen. 3:17, 18). Then, after the Flood, people were allowed to eat animals (Gen. 9:3). Despite the permission to eat a variety of foods, however, we know that a balanced, whole-foods, plant-based diet with the supplementation of essential nutrients such as vitamin B12 is the most healthful diet whenever and wherever it is available. What God made and intended for our use cannot be improved upon.
Unfortunately, humankind has desired to eat what was not allowed or intended. Instead of whole foods, we’ve created refined foods. Instead of plant foods, people often prefer animal foods. As a consequence, we suffer, animals suffer, and nature suffers. When we go contrary to what we were created for, what the animals were created for, and what nature was created for, then creation is subjected to pain and death. Though creation has degenerated after millennia of sin and foods are not what they were in the Garden of Eden, we may still strive to nourish ourselves primarily on the foods God created us for. Therefore, our fourth principle of living abundantly is to nourish ourselves on real foods, not artificial man-made substitutes of what God provides through nature.
When we allow God to be the center of our lives and receive what He has abundantly provided, then we may enjoy the richness and blessings of a carefully and faithfully invested life, and not recklessly spend what has not been given to us.