We have here two worlds, one a veritable heaven on earth, the other a veritable living hell. In either case, it’s what the people there have created for themselves.
The norms of the first are goodwill, harmony and prosperity.
Goodwill creates harmony.
Harmony creates prosperity, since the people constantly encourage each other to do well, and cooperate in creating wealth together.
The norms of the other world are ill-will, chaos and unmet need.
Ill-will creates chaos.
Chaos creates unmet need.
Two ways of life …
… correspond to those two different worlds. All over the world, wherever you find happy people, regardless of skin color, they are living according to one way of life. All over the world, wherever folk live in unmet need, regardless of skin color, they’re living a different way of life.
In the world of harmony, people live according to the ways of prosperity. The ways that make and keep people prosperous. These ways lead to the creation of blessings, material wealth, order and peace. One has enough; one is enough. One’s needs are met, emotionally and physically. This can be called “success.”
In the world of chaos, people live according to the ways of poverty. The ways that make and keep people poor. These ways lead to the destruction of blessings, to disorder, chaos, strife, poverty, drama and unmet needs. One does not have enough; one is not enough. One feels inadequate. This can be called “failure.”
Paul’s distinction between “the fruit of the spirit” and “the works of the flesh” is informative. Galatians 5:
19Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. … 22By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
“The works of the flesh” typify life in the world of chaos; these activities tend to make and keep people poor. “The fruits of the spirit” typify life in the world of harmony; these activities tend to make and keep people well.
Why have-nots have not
These are distressing stories.
- This teen was a pillar of the church youth group. A cousin who was staying with her family got into an argument with one of the siblings, and the mother told him he had to go. His response was to set the bedroom on fire. They lost their Section 8 behind it.
- Same teen, years later. Mother kicked her out of the house because, she said, the child had been running the streets looking for sex. I still can’t believe that. Someone took the child in; when she went home days later to fetch her clothes, the mother had burned them.
- A church member owns a rental property, and let a church family move in. I don’t understand this. The mother has a good job and should be able to pay the rent, but somehow consistently fails to to do. The utilities got cut off long ago. Meanwhile, the children have trashed the house.
Chaos creates unmet need.
This may be part of your own story. If your parents lived chaotic lives, and spent their resources chaotically — that’s why the food stamps ran out at mid-month, every month, month after month; why the children were often hungry, and the house cold and dark. Possibly crueller was how the parents’ own unmet emotional needs kept them from ever loving the children the way children need to be loved.
The way circumstances play out in the world of harmony, tends to teach people the ways of prosperity; and the way they play out in the world of chaos, tends to teach people the ways of poverty. For example, in the world of harmony, honesty and diligence are normally rewarded — in the natural course of events. In the world of chaos, in contrast, honesty typically serves no useful purpose, and diligence is not rewarded. In the world of chaos, any good thing you create for yourself today, someone else is likely to destroy tomorrow.
So, these people have continued to live this way, and those people that way, down through the ages. “Products of their environment:” we see them in our time; we saw them in the 20th century; they appear in Dickens, and in Shakespeare, and the Bible.
Choosing a different way of life
To get on your feet, you may need to change your ways.
If you always do
what you always did,
you’ll always get
what you always got.
You may need to live differently from everything you, your family, friends and neighbors always took for granted. You will be in situations where you feel like you don’t know what to do or how to act — lost in the woods without a map and not knowing where the landmarks are. It can be a lonely path, and only your self-love will let you persevere.
I’ve been there.
As of this writing, I am there.
Where people lie to each other, steal from each other, and inflict bodily harm — it can be said that there’s a lack of love in that place. We can remedy this. It begins with loving yourself.