What if we could create a system where everyone was able to provide what they need for themselves and their families just by working hard? That's not the case right now because people all over the world need help meeting their basic needs even when they work hard, long hours.

This Is Our Current System

In our current system, wages are pushed down so far that they are at the poverty level. This makes it virtually impossible to provide for your family's basic needs like shelter, food, education for your children, and health services. This is where Charities step in. They see the need and step in to meet those needs in the best way they can. Because we see those people in need, we want to help and support the Charity's mission. The Charities are needed, there's no doubt about that.

To a certain extent, we as consumers get a double benefit. We get low prices and we feel good when we donate to Charities that are helping the poor.

How do we break this cycle? Is there a different system where the poor would be capable of providing for themselves?

The Improved System

In the improved system, living wages are paid to the hard workers. Instead of the Charities providing the education for their children, medical services, food, and shelter, the workers are able to provide all of it for themselves. The need for Charities will most likely never be completely eliminated because we will always have people who won't be able to work like you or I, but the need could be greatly reduced.

Not only do the workers have the ability to provide for themselves and their families, but the workers are able to use their wages to pay for teachers, doctors, nurses, farmers who are providing services for them. These providers then use their wages to pay for the things they need and so on and so on.

But for us consumers, it might not feel as good. We will have to pay higher prices. We also might not get the good feelings of donating to a charity because we have fewer resources from which to give. So, it could feel doubly negative in a way. The question we need to ask ourselves is what sort of system do we want to play in - what sort of system does Jesus want us to play in?

The System Plays In So Many Ways

Fashion is not the only way that this game gets played. When I think about how many items I purchase from different countries, it starts to fill up the map.

I've started redefining what I find desirable - something that is well made and made well. If we start to redefine it, maybe others would start to share our outlook. It only takes a few people to stare up in the sky to get an entire crowd to look in the same direction.

"There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger & unhappiness" - Mahatma Gandhi

"He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the Lord. -Jeremiah 22:16

If you are wondering where to begin your journey helping to shape the system into something better, our website is full of companies that are making the effort to ensure fair wages are paid. Don't forget: we don't get any financial support from any company referenced on this website, so there is no benefit to us.

Solomon, arguably the wisest person who ever lived, missed a big idea.

Solomon tried everything to find joy, to find meaning - or did he? Was there something he missed? Something he didn't try that could have changed his opinion that everything was meaningless?

Yes! He missed something BIG.

He tried building stuff.

He tried being rich.

He tried laughing.

He tried wine.

He tried sex.

He tried wisdom.

He tried everything under the sun.

Except, he missed something big. He didn't try loving his neighbor as himself.

What if Solomon thought about his neighbor while he built stuff? Could his wealth have meant more if he used it for the benefit of others or spent it so that others could have better lives? What if the wine he drank had some love for the workers in it as an ingredient? What if his laughter was full of the joy gained by the knowledge that his efforts resulted in others being better off? What if he took better care of the shepherds who took care of the flocks he owned?

It seems that Jesus found a lot of meaning and joy in His expression of love for us:

"looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

-Hebrews 12:2 ESV

Solomon's efforts resulted in what he found to be meaningless:

"I said in my heart, 'Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.' But behold, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, 'It is mad', and of pleasure, 'What use is it?'

I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine - my heart still guiding me with wisdom - and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life.

I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem.

Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun."

-Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 ESV

Solomon couldn't find joy, couldn't find meaning perhaps because he acted with himself as the sole benefactor. Christ found joy, he knew that others were going to benefit by his actions.

Updated: Aug 9

Someone very kindly kicked my daughter's soccer ball back to her. I patiently instructed my daughter, “Say thank you.” Another boy whom I didn’t know and wasn’t talking to looked up at me while running after his ball and said, “Thank you.” Even though I'd done absolutely nothing to help him in any way, I very kindly and matter of factly replied, “You’re welcome.” My wife, witnessing this, started laughing to the point that she was having trouble catching her breath. I turned to her with a big smile on my face that continued to get bigger as I thought about what just happened. I repeated the exchange outloud so that we could relive it together and we have been revisiting that moment when we need a laugh ever since.

There was literally no reason that the boy should have needed to say thank you to me. I guess it was just a natural response to my request. Maybe I gave really clear direction to him and he appreciated it so much that he complied even without having a clear reason. I don’t know. All I know is that he seemed like a genuinely nice kid who said thank you for no reason.

I hate being told what to do. Actually, I kind of like it. I like knowing what is expected of me. I don’t like standing out. Sometimes I search out what I should do and who I should be by watching other people, reading books, watching YouTube videos.

When I do something because someone else told me to or because that’s what I see other people doing, it is called “acting by analogy”.

Acting by analogy is easy. I see someone do something and I recreate it. Someone tells me to do something and I do it the way they tell me to. Someone tells me to say thank you and I say thank you. It’s the reason we all do things similarly. I feel safe when I do what most of the other people around me are doing. It seems like I won’t make any big mistakes. I figure that I’ll fit in pretty well. It makes me think I’ll be able to relate to my neighbors because we’re all kinda doing the same things.

This acting by analogy hurts, though. It hurts me because I don’t find deep meaning from the things I do.

I find myself hearing my friends and family clearly, coworkers intensely, pastor’s voice strongly, the internet like a megaphone that rarely quiets, comments from bystanders ever swirling around me like a confused wind.

These voices tell me what I should eat, how I should pray, what I should wear, how I should interpret a certain portion of scripture, what types of hugs I should give, what to do with my free time, what I’m allowed to think, how I need to act in every situation. These voices make it easy to know what is expected of me, but they don’t give me a deep sense of meaning.

“The thoughts of others imprison us if we’re not thinking for ourselves.” -Shane, Farnham Street Blog

The ever present voices of others often make it more difficult to hear the voice of God. His Spirit doesn’t seem to be on a loudspeaker in my life, it takes turning down the volume of everyone else before I can hear His voice.

The opposite of acting from analogy is refreshing. When I do something because I determined it was what I wanted to do based upon my own principles, it is called “acting by principle”. This is sometimes referred to as First Principles thinking/reasoning/acting. First principles thinking means that a concept is understood down to the very fundamental building blocks, down to the basic principles, the first principles. It means I understand why am doing what I am doing and that it is based on something with meaning.

It is hard to decide what to do in every situation. There are almost an infinite number of situations that we will encounter, each with their unique circumstances. How do we know what God wants us to do in all these different situations?

The bible, much to my disappointment, has never given me a specific answer for what I should do in all the different situations I’ve been in. There is no formulaic answer. But, Jesus did tell me what basic principles everything should be based upon.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

I’ve found a lot of meaning basing what I eat, how I pray, what I wear, how I interpret scripture, how I hug, what I do with my free time, how I think, and how I act upon loving God and loving my neighbor. It feels as though what I do has color and texture instead of it just being gray and flat because someone else told me to do it this way or that way. I seem to hear his voice clearer when I’m not intensely focused on what other people are telling me to do.

That kid who said thank you when I told him to probably didn’t really mean it. There wasn’t a reason for it or at least a reason that he understood. He said thank you because I told him to. Hopefully, I’m not just acting like that kid all the time. Do things for no reason. I’d like to have a purpose. I’d like to have a meaning. I’d like to follow Jesus completely, not other people. I’d like to leave the tradition of men and hold to the commandment of God.

“And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘this people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of me.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” ‭‭Mark‬ ‭7:6-8‬ ‭ESV