An investment counselor once gave me these simple rules:
1. Work hard
2. Spend less than you earn
3. Save and/or invest the extra
4. Don't touch what you save or invest until you really have to
At the time I was just starting out in my career and had a modest salary. The idea of setting some aside for savings seemed like an impossible task. And when I did, it sure was easy to come up with things I thought I really needed, evaporating my savings in an instant. Somewhere along the way I did start to follow his advice. Though I will never be wealthy, I am no longer in poverty. Hard work, thrifty spending, saving the extra and refusing to dip into it for non-essentials turned out to be good advice.
What I find interesting about this advice is that it works in all areas of life.
As the Scripture says, "Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty" (Proverbs 28:19).
Want to lose weight? Work hard. Eat fewer calories than we burn. Turn the excess into muscle. Don't get off our eating plan unless we really have to.
Want to bring more balance to our schedule? Work hard. Plan things out to have a little extra time between things. Use that extra time to enjoy our family/scenery/hobbies -- and our relationship with Jesus. Don't let anyone crowd into that extra time unless we really have to.
Want to have more friends? Work hard (yes, friendship is hard work!). Give more attention to others than we demand for ourselves. Let that extra attention fill us with happiness, fulfillment and contentment. Don't let anyone take that sense of happiness away from us unless we really have to (and that is rarely ever the case!).
The opposite is also true. If we waste money, time, energy, relationships, etc. on worthless pursuits, we will have to endure plenty of poverty as a result. Poverty is not just financial. Many people have a poverty of time, a poverty of friendships and a poverty of health, all because they wasted their talents, skills, abilities and energy on things that had no purpose.
One important strategy for having a rich life is to decide what purpose our lives should have and then pursue that purpose with a passion and refuse to let ourselves be distracted by all the junk along the way. We may not ever be rich, or famous, or the super-organized, but we can live a blessed life that has meaning and purpose if we put these concepts into practice.
Lord, help us focus on the right things so that we can find meaning and purpose in life. Help us avoid worthless pursuits that lead nowhere. Amen.