Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control. (Proverbs 25:27)
It was, I thought, a picture of a lack of self-control, of which we can all be found guilty at one time or another, whether it’s beers, junk food, exercise, mindless surfing and streaming. Those indulgences are usually framed in our mind by these words “I deserve this.” It’s the influence of greed and a predisposition toward “getting” that often leave us feeling empty, unfulfilled and even a little damaged. Without self-control we leave ourselves open to being invaded, like unguarded stone walls of ancient cities. We can be left in ruin and regret.
One time when Jesus was speaking to a crowd of people, someone interjects, interrupts him with a request. “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” That unnamed someone could be any of us. We all have greed that we disguise as need. We are sometimes guilty of protecting what we think is “ours”. We are too often, entrenched as “ I deserve” people. We tend to elevate our wants to be needs and justify our actions accordingly, and then berate and belittle and label others as judgmental because they see through the hypocrisy of our actions. Jesus’ response is a word of caution and a reminder to deepen our roots in compassion: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Luke 12:13-15 NIV
So Jesus tells this parable, a story, to remind us that we all can subtly get moved into an all-consuming “I deserve”, greed position, when all the while we are looking for contentment. We think, if I accomplish these things, if I have this much money, if I get just a little more...for me, then I will be able to be content. How much is truly enough? Whether that is money, organizational growth, or even likes and follows.
Our culture doesn’t feed contentment, our culture creates an unfillable void with greed. “I am deserving” is never satisfied and its end is often a disaster, that blinds us to the needs of others.
What difference does compassion make?
Instead of “I am deserving” - “I am depending” is a different story with a an incredible ending. Instead of being consumed with how much, how big and how many, we instead get to ask “how will?”
The virtue of compassion is a necessary component for leadership. It’s a movement that transitions us away from greed, beyond giving and into generosity. Compassionate love for those among whom we lead and serve comes at a cost. My observations have been that there are those who enter into and serve in leadership who are unwilling to absorb those costs.
This is an important transition in cultivating a life of contentment and generosity. “How will God provide?” - it then heightens our awareness to look for the ways in which God provides for us and our organizations. And it demonstrates a humility of spirit. It teaches us to not compare ourselves to others or seek short term self serving solutions that have no lasting value.
We move into this “I am depending on God” posture as a first priority, knowing that God wants to supply our need, he is able to supply our need, and he helps us to not only rebuild structures of self-control to enjoy the contentment (rest, refreshment and peace) that we seek. In that confidence we discover the joy in generous giving toward the needs of others: with our resources, our time, our words, etc.
If you’re looking for contentment that satisfies us deeply, positively impacts those around you and has a lasting organizational impact, perhaps it’s time to evaluate the depth of your compassion.
If a lack of self control is likened you broken walls that leave us feeling beaten or defeated then self control ought to be evidenced by the reconstruction of boundaries that enliven us through gratitude, contentment and generosity to enjoy the blessing that God promises.
Jesus said it this way: “ Seek first God and his Kingdom and all these things will be given to you as well.”