ARE WE FLOURISHING?
Psalms 92:12-15 “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.’”
Simple definition for the word ’flourish’ is: to grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, to develop rapidly and successfully. God wants us (His people) to flourish in the midst of a world that is filled with sin and decay. To flourish in this way will be a testimony to the world that what we have and what we believe in is real and that it works. Paul said: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” (2 Corinthians 4:13) He knew that what he believed in was real and so he spoke with confidence and authority.
In a blog by INSTITUTE FOR FAITH, WORK AND ECONOMICS a Christian think tank out of Washington DC – said the following about flourishing: “In the Old Testament, the concept of flourishing is best described by the Jewish word shalom. Biblical scholars note that shalom signifies a number of things, including salvation, wholeness, integrity, soundness, community, righteousness, justice, and well-being. Shalom denotes a right relationship with God, with others, and with God’s good creation. It is the way God intended things to be when He created the universe.
Most English Bibles translate shalom as “peace,” but it means much more than just an absence of conflict. The idea of flourishing (shalom) in the widest sense of the word is a significant theme in the Old Testament. When the Lord brings “shalom:”
- There is prosperity (Psalm 72:1-7).
- There is health (Isaiah 57:19).
- There is reconciliation (Genesis 26:29).
- There is contentment (Genesis 15:15, Psalm 4:8).
- When the shalom of the Lord is present, there are good relationships between the nations and peoples. God’s shalom has a social, as well as a personal, dimension (I Chronicles 12:17-18).
Shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight. It is the way things ought to be.
We might not know the fullness of this “shalom” until Christ comes, but to me kingdom thinking means that this is what we are to work towards where ever we might be that God places us: our work place, school, arts, government, media, business, etc. We work towards life’s shalom.
In order to flourish our lives must have meaning and purpose. When Christ gave us one of His last commands to go into all the world and teach all nations before His ascension, He gave us the means to flourish. I would dare say that our lives individually, or corporately with our church, will have no real flourishing unless we are working towards this goal. This does not mean that everyone must go, but all can be involved in giving and praying, but also involved in reaching those around us.
Part of this flourishing is being good stewards in fulfilling the cultural mandate God gave us. How are we doing? Are we maintaining God’s creation? Are we making the best of the talents, gifts, resources that God has given us? The blog that I mentioned above brings out some important truths that flourishing in a society will be seen in areas like life expectancy, infant mortality, at levels of poverty and corruption, with civil liberties and the environment.
Kingdom thinking will ponder or consider these things and will look around in the world to see what can and should be done. I am working with brothers now who want to see how we can create jobs; work is important. This is one of the best ways to alleviate poverty. There are some who are unable to work, but God ordained work and not living off the generosity of others or hand-outs from the government (tax-payers).
When Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was teaching the churches through his letters, he shared how we need to take care of those in our families first. He used the example of widows. Paul said: “Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” (1 Timothy 5:3-5)
I am not saying that governments are not important in helping with relief, but only after other means (like family) have been exhausted. The problem that we have in Western Europe, and that we are closely following in the States, is in thinking that our government needs to take care of us from the cradle to the grave. But, that can last only so long because like Margaret Thatcher said: “We soon run out of other people’s money.”
Kingdom thinking will also see the importance of ‘giving.’ James and John bring this out in their admonition to us all. “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:15-17
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” 1 John 3:17
God wants us to “flourish” in every way so that we can help others, both physically and spiritually, as well as enjoy our lives with our families. Are you flourishing?