If, as an old saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats, then a lot of people where I live are sitting in financial dry dock, waiting for the moving of the waters in northern New England. Prosperity trickles up slowly where the prime use of silicon is to improve traction on icy roads.
From the day we moved here, my wife and I put the local economy at the top of our prayer lists. Through our windows we saw postcard loveliness. But the scene was like a Hollywood movie set facade hiding signs of economic stagnation, at a time when much of the country was enjoying unprecedented growth.
Our prayers and hopes joined an invisible chorus. It has been four years since we moved, and things have begun to improve. New small businesses have opened, and a county justice center is planned for the town common. Houses that had been on the market for years have sold.
Still, the people around here know the difference between boom times in Silicon Valley and life in the bucolic upper Connecticut River valley. A neighbor and I were joking about the new money-focused game shows recently, and I said, "The real question is, who doesn't want to be a millionaire?" She turned suddenly serious and said, "Maybe, but I think things like winning a lottery make lots of people very unhappy. It [sudden wealth] makes so many families split up. What makes me happy is doing honest work, helping to keep my family together."
Look a little deeper, and our desire is for happiness, for wholeness - for life on an even keel regardless of how the economic winds are blowing.
The renowned financial advisor William Shakespeare offers this counsel in his play "Much Ado About Nothing": "Comparisons are odorous." And they are many. Comparisons between ourselves and others. Between our financial present and past, or the present and an uncertain future. Between "have" and "have-not" countries. Between the bright, hyperkinetic world of dotcom companies and life in the slower lane of basic goods and services. They all boil down to one persistent question: Am I doing as well as X is doing?
The fact is, you're as wealthy now as you'll ever be. Really. Spiritual wealth is constant, self-renewing, and, unlike the things people generally measure as wealth, spiritual riches are evenly and abundantly distributed. They're pouring our way right now as spiritual ideas, qualities, and character traits. These riches - such as integrity, tenderness, generosity, wit, intelligence, selfless love, goodness - are more than gifts. They are permanent endowments of one's individual, God-composed being. They make up the you that's truly you. But like an unclaimed bank account, spiritual endowments don't have value until they're claimed and used. Invested in, developed, and expressed, they grow. And who could be more employable than someone brimming with new ideas and a desire to see others benefited by them?
As we begin to seek and define our own and others' worth more in spiritual than in material terms, we find that we're no longer tempted to compare ourselves to others according to the quantity or quality of material assets. All that is good has the same sure source: God. Envy wears a mask of self-justification. Remove the mask, and all that's left is the unbelievable suggestion that God's care is less than universal. What's on the tails side of the coin that bears envy's head? Mesmeric euphoria, the shaky kind of happiness that's fixated on financial assets. To lose this coin altogether is to gain much.
In the book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," the founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, observed, "In the scientific relation of God to man, we find that whatever blesses one blesses all, as Jesus showed with the loaves and the fishes, - Spirit, not matter, being the source of supply" (pg. 206).
Spirit the source ... spiritual ideas the currency flowing to each of us ... tangible evidence of God's love, seen in today's needs being supplied. It's an immensely liberating message.
You can visit the Web site of The First Church of Christ, Scientist: www.tfccs.com
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society