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October 29, 1990

The Truth About Prosperity: Redefine Around Shalom

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“Not everything that counts can be counted and not all that is counted really counts “
William Cameron Bruce, a 1960s sociologist

It was the day before Christmas and I had run to the store for a few last minute groceries. I don’t remember exactly what was on my list but I imagine we were missing a couple of items to round out our traditional Christmas breakfast. I was moving quickly through the fruit section and ran straight into my friend Jim. Before I could even say hi, Jim pressed into my space and too closely asked, hey can we talk for a minute? I said sure, but it is Christmas Eve and I need to get home soon. How about next week or even the following week? He leaned in even closer and said can we talk now? So we moved over into the corner of a very large and busy grocery store and he started unloading.
Jim had been a friend for years. He was a good businessman and seemed to be the perfect picture of prosperity.
He was the guy hosting massive parties whenever the calendar offered a conceivable reason. He was the one jetting off to the Caribbean whenever he felt his sunbaked tan was losing its sheen. He was the one living large with all looking in envious wonder. Family. Kids. Business. Houses. Toys. Power. Smiles. He was living well…or so we all thought.
In that busy grocery store corner, though, Jim revealed a much different reality. He confessed that his life was a disastrous wreck. He was facing lawsuits, had already lost his family and lost his businesses. He had no money and even fewer friends. A life normally overflowing with abundance was empty.
I drove home stunned.
“Somewhere along the way, Steve, I lost my way. I fell off balance. My formula for life and success has utterly failed me and I am a wreck.”

A picture of prosperity to a desperate wreck! How does that happen? How does someone who seems to be doing so well, end up as financially, emotionally and relationally broke as Jim? The truth is, more often than not folks end up like Jim because they have been bankrupt for quite some time, it just takes a while for the accounting to catch up.
Like too many of us, Jim equated a flourishing life with worldly success and was left with a lopsided and empty understanding of prosperity. Even though it looked like Jim’s life was a towering and impressive structure, it was really nothing more than a deceptive façade, entirely lacking a foundation and resting precariously on a ledge. Unfortunately, this warped notion of prosperity, which makes financial and material success the alone ultimate, can’t fulfill. Just as it did for my friend, it can lead us to skewed and incomplete lives in which we chase a mere fraction of the true prosperity available. As Christians, we are called to so much more. We are called to true prosperity.

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