Tag Archives: Greed

6 Relationship Lessons from ‘The Great Gatsby’

Be Yourself

Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) portrayed himself as a rich when he first met Daisy – something he was not. In doing this, he misrepresented a part of himself that he did not like. In essence, he started off their relationship in a lie. As such, he had to become the lie he told in order to continue the relationship. Moreover, the person Daisy (Carey Mulligan) met was an idea of Jay instead of the real Jay. The real Jay was lost a long time ago in a fantasy world that He was willing to bring to reality no matter what the cost.

Fear and insecurity are the bedrock of lies when it comes to relationships. The moment you lie to yourself about who you are is the moment you begin to lose your identity. If you have misrepresented who you are to your partner, then what you have is the illusion of a relationship. In truth, your partner does not know you, so how can he or she ever truly come to love you? Moreover, the only reason you would ever try to be someone other than you is because you do not love yourself. If you do not like you, change you instead of pretending. It takes a lot of effort to be someone else and you will not be able to keep it up forever so do not even try it.

Building a relationship on falsehood is like building a house on sinking sand. No matter how majestic the building, it will not stand the test of time. If you are going to build something, build it to last. Start off by being yourself.

Take Time to Know Your Partner  

Jay thought that he knew Daisy but he did not. What he knew was an idea of Daisy he had concocted in his head. His own emotions – which he kept bottled up for years – blinded him to reality.

Likewise, it is likely that our partners can do no wrong when in the throes of infatuation at the beginning of the relationship. But the proof of love is not infatuation but sacrifice and commitment. These take time! While Jay was committed to Daisy, Daisy married Tom instead of waiting for Jay as she had promised.

If the love you have is true, then love waits. Conversely, self-interest cannot wait but always wants what it wants now. Remember this: Though you are riding off into the sunset with your knight right now, the horse will get tired at some point and you will have to get off. The ride is just the beginning of the journey. Make sure you have someone who wants to finish the journey with you and not just looking for a thrill ride.

Remember, the end of a matter is always better than its beginning (Ecclesiastes 7:8). Just wait!

Know what Motivates Your Partner

The love of money was what primarily drove Daisy and Myrtle (Isla Fisher). They could never be happy with anyone who did not have money – no matter how much that person loved them. Don’t get me wrong, Daisy and Myrtle wanted love, but they wanted it only if it came with a ritzy lifestyle. Money was their security and security was more important than love.

It is no wonder that money is the leading cause of relationship woes. Today, when most people say I love you, what they are really saying is ‘I love what you provide me and are able to do for me’. Love that is based on ‘what you have’ is not love but fear and greed in disguise for it is based on selfishness. Take this challenge: Go to your partner and ask what they love about you? Listen closely to the answer and see if he or she simply mentions what you are doing for them.

What you want is for someone to mention your character, your heart, your loving nature, your faith etc. You want him or her to mention things that have nothing to do with material things – the material things are simply perks. Only true love stands the ‘in sickness and in health’ test.

You cannot serve both God (love) and money (Matthew 6:24)

Forget the Past   

Instead of looking at the reality of the present, Jay Gatsby kept his focus on the past and tried to re-create the past. The reality was the Daisy was a married woman, but the lens of the past kept him seeing her as his sweetheart.

Holding on to the past will only lead you to miss out on a great future. The only way to let go of the past is to focus on the present. Focus on who you are right now and how you are changed instead of allowing the muck of your past to dictate your life.

Similarly, if your partner hurt you in the past, ask yourself this question: Is this the same person or is this a different person living in the same body? Trying to punish someone who has long since changed is akin to flogging a dead horse. It simply saps all your energy without yielding any fruit.

You and Your Partner Must Flock Together

Birds of a feather flock together! When Jay met Daisy, he was flocking around a crowd he had no business flocking around. Similarly, if you are Christian, you have no business trying to entice someone to whom you are unequally yoked. Though things may seem exciting for the moment, you are more than likely flocking towards disaster.

We are warned that two cannot walk together unless they agree with one another (Amos 3:3). If you and your partner’s spirit are not in agreement, then nothing else will. The best relationships are the ones where the individuals are both flocking towards God. In this kind of relationship, both people know they are always flocking in the same direction, and they know that goodness and rewards in life are found when they reach their destination.

Do Not Play God

Jay tried to turn back the hands of time in trying to get back with Daisy. He was willing to sacrifice his integrity and himself to give her whatever she wanted. He wanted to be her god with whom she would feel safe, secure, and loved.

Here is the problem with being someone’s god: You can never satisfy the person completely for you are not God. Trying to become a god puts undue pressure on you and sets up your partner for disappointment for they will make an idol of you. It eventually leads to unhappiness.

Today, instead of trying to be perfect in your relationship, just simply move in the direction of perfection daily.

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The Mind of Christ – The Obedience That Wins

While humility, prayer, and seeking the face of God are the first three legs of our race towards victory, obedience is the power that pushes us across the finish line and unleashes the blessings of God in our lives. This analogy to the relay in track and field illustrates that obedience is only powerful when done out a heart of love – a heart set on humility which in turn leads us to prayer and seeking the face of God. If our obedient action is not motivated by love, then it is motivated by greed or by fear. Too many of us are obedient to God because we simply want to use Him as our cash cow!

 Lightbulb MomentLight-bulb moment: Cash cow obedience is not born out of love but instead is born out of our greed and self-seeking.

Jesus gives an example of obedience that does not please Him when he describes the people that put ashes on their cheeks to show they are fasting. Although they were being obedient to fast (for Christ says when and not if you fast), the motivation behind it all was the adulation of the people around them. In actuality, their action had morphed into a form of idolatry, with their god being the need to be recognized. Since the penchant to be glorified rather than give God all the glory comes out of fear (of not being good enough, or of rejection), we see that it cannot please God for it is not done out of love. This is why Cain’s offering was not pleasing to God; why Jesus called the seemingly perfect and obedient keepers of the law brood of vipers; why our obedience at times do not yield any fruit for us

Lightbulb MomentLight-bulb moment: Obedience is simply a seed. Just like any other seed, it has to be sown into ground that has been fertilized by love to be effective and yield fruit

Since the opposite good is evil (wickedness) and anything that does not flow out of God (love) is no good, it becomes clear that the command to ‘turn away from our wicked ways’ is not simply talking about turning away from disobedience, but is also addressing obedience that is steeped in fear. Therefore, the only way to turn away from our wicked way is to turn to love. Why turn to love-driven obedience? We do it so that healing can take place in our life and we can have peace. See, while our obedience can yield fruit in other people’s lives, why we are obedient is what determines whether fruit is produced in our lives. A fantastic example of this is Prophet Jonah.  Although his preaching of the Gospel yielded the fruit of deliverance for the people of Nineveh, it produced bitterness in him because He was not obedient out of love. This is why Jonah asked God to take his life even when Nineveh was spared. Sheesh!

Lightbulb MomentLight-bulb moment: What we do determines whether other people are blessed. Why we do it is what determines whether we are blessed!

Once we have truly developed the heart of love behind obedience, the question is how do we put it into practice? How do we ensure we do not fall into the trap of looking at ourselves in the mirror and forgetting what we look like as soon as we leave – of falling into complacency? (See James 1: 23 – 24).

Some Practical ways to ensure we do not fall into complacency and into disobedience are as follows:

  • Read the Word (Give no place to the devil – Ephesians 4:27): We do this by arming ourselves with the sword of the Spirit (the Word of God). We have to get to the point where we are so filled up with the Word of God that it leaves no room for any junk to enter.
  • Have Accountability Partners (Bear one anothers burdens – Galatians 6:7): We help each other lift our loads when we do not forsake godly gatherings but keep each other accountable to lead a godly life
  • Stay Away from Ungodly Company (A little leaven leavens the whole lump – 1 Corinthians 5:11): We have to ensure we rid ourselves of the sin (leaven) that is leavening our lump. At times, that means we must distance ourselves from people who do not care to discard their sin for any leaven is infectious and has a tendency to spread. Once the leaven is removed, the fellowship may be restored. Note that the relationship was never broken.

Food For Thought: Those who love God obey Him because they love Him

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Favor Gone Berserk – Recieving grace in vain

What are you doing with God’s favor? (listen here)

God’s grace is multifaceted! His grace saves us from eternal separation (through the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ), covers us in a myriad of situations and covers our sins when we confess, and empowers us (through the Holy Spirit) to live righteously and to attain all the covenant blessings or promises (favor, healing, prosperity, wisdom, might, and much more) that has been won for us.

Since we receive grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8), as we grow our faith (belief and trust) in the Lord through the study of His Word (see Romans 10:17), we ensure we experience more grace (power, gifting) in our lives. Thus, a life of faith is an empowered life that leads to the manifestation of the fullness of His covenant blessings in our life.

Yet, many of us receive the grace of God in vain when we fail to realize that God lavishes His grace on us not just to proper us but for us to be His hands and feet and to fulfill the requirements of love through His gifts – to walk in His purpose for us, to reveal Christ to others, and to be a blessing to others. Paul puts it this way:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me – 1 Corinthians 5:10

Lightbulb MomentLight-bulb moment: We receive grace in vain when we stop laboring to fulfill the requirements of love by walk in His purpose for us, revealing Christ to others, and being a blessing to others. When we think it is just for us and we become lazy

Favor Gone Berserk

Favor goes berserk when we receive favor in vain. I started thinking of how favor goes berserk when I was asked this question: What would you rather have – favor or blessing? I found the question puzzling, not because it is difficult to answer, but because it makes a fundamentally flawed assumption. The question assumes that favor and blessing are mutually exclusive.

The will of God is to pour out his blessing on us and doth on us as a loving Father. He longs to bless us so that we can be a blessing to others – not to hog all our blessings in selfishness. By blessing others, we show God’s heart and walk in obedience. We open the door to God’s blessing when we obediently follow the path the He has for us. Favor is something that God grants us as we continue on the path of obedience. It is God’s favor that propels and catapults us towards the blessings that He has in store for us. So the relationship between favor and blessing is simply this:

Lightbulb MomentLight-bulb moment: Favors are simply doors that God opens to accomplish His purpose through us

The mindset that favor and blessing are exclusive keeps us from reaching our destiny! People who chase after favor rather than blessings can be compared to those that base their performance on effort rather than results. They congratulate themselves on effort without ever achieving much. Hence, favor minded people often find themselves stuck in the same situation in life.

Lightbulb MomentLight-bulb moment: Favor is the means to an end, and not the end in itself.

The story of Mark lays out the peril of being solely favor minded

Mark Receives Grace in Vain (listen here)

Mark is a favor-monger! He loves favor. Mark does not have much but he does very well on favor. He is favored everywhere he goes – he gets free parking in places others need to pay; he gets the closest parking at sporting events, and a friend usually picks up his tab at dinner. Mark enjoys so much favor that he has come to expect it. It has come to the point where he can just about budget favor into his monthly financial plan.  For this, He is very thankful to God and prays to God for even more favor. From the outside looking in, it would be nice to be Mark right? Wrong!

Here are some things that being solely favor minded has done to Mark

  • He Cannot Bless Others: Mark is never able to pick up the tab for any of his friends. He is never able to help or bless anyone as he is the one that is always in need of a blessing. He needs others to continue favoring him and so is unable to be God’s hands and feet.
  • He has Become Lazy: By being solely favor minded he has imbibed a poverty mentality where he is satisfied with barely scraping by. He has the ability to achieve more, but laziness has crept into him. He has become the servant that the master admonished in the parable of the talents for being lazy (see Matthew 14:26). Mark has buried his potential under the seductive soil of favor!
  • He is Dissatisfied: Mark is never fully satisfied with any particular blessing his friends bestow upon him as he is always looking for more! His friends have noticed that while he always smiles and thanks them for blessing him, Mark becomes very sad, withdrawn, and even cold when he does not obtain their favor. They secretly wonder if Mark is only friends with them because of what they do for him. They wonder if their friendship with Mark is built on being his cash cow, and they wonder why he does not do more with the talent he possesses. On the other hand, Mark wonders why his friends have not picked up the tab especially when they are able and he is unable! He rationalizes it as his friends being cheap and not really loving him. He judges them for not following the biblical injunction of caring for the “needy” – as he is one who is in need! He conveniently forgets about all the other times they pick up his tab……. Mark has truly become a burden. And since he is never truly satisfied, he is never truly content. As such, he always nags. He has become a person that bible calls quarrelsome and nagging (see Proverbs 21:19).
  • He Cannot Keep a Relationship: Mark cannot maintain relationships because he is always the “taker” in them. He never gives because he rationalizes that he has nothing to give – but a whole lot of condemnation which he considers advice. He sees nothing wrong with always being a taker. In fact, He thanks God for blessing him and for putting people in his life he can take from. They are such a blessing! But in time, his partner realizes that Mark loves favor more than her and leaves him. Mark is stunned! He cannot see his own selfishness. He prays that God sends him another partner – another partner to drain!

Mark has forgotten that the bible says we should give and it shall be given unto us. It does not say to take so that we can get more.

“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” – Luke 6:38

Mark’s Heart Condition (listen here)

The story of Mark illuminates what can happen when favor goes berserk – when we make favor the goal and not a means. It may lead to laziness, ingratitude, inability to fulfill our potential and broken relationships. As heirs to the throne, Jesus has unlocked for us covenant blessings; not just covenant favor for our selfish gain. We must not allow the enemy to twist favor in such a way as to keep us from God’s best. If this is happening, we have to examine our hearts. If we truly have a heart for God (a heart of love), then we will have a heart to be a blessing to others. We will have a heart to be givers.

So to answers the originally levied question of whether I would rather have favor or blessing, I say give me bless me so that I can be a blessing to others.

Food for Thought: The path to God’s blessing is paved with favor

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