Least Common Denominator

As I sit here on the eve of a new year, I’ve been thinking about a lot of things – my own life, my personal challenges, and the challenges which face us as a society. I am quite worried about our culture here in America. It dawned on me recently that we have become a nation that does “just enough.” We have become a nation who does just what it takes to finish what we’re doing so we can go back to our everyday lives. As a cub reporter, I had a friend and co-worker named Mike Stout who was a few years ahead of me, and often had advice for me as I honed my journalistic skills. Mike was always ready with a quick and witty response to just about any situation. He would often lighten the mood with a joke. Once, when he had helped me with a story, I thanked him. He said, “It’s the least I can do…and as you know, I always do the least I can do.”

He was joking, of course; his self-deprecating quality was one of the things that I liked about him. But I have often thought about that. Are we satisfied with doing the least that we can, and no more? Take our credit-based economy, for example. We have an entire economic sector based on borrowing. (I’m not preaching here – like millions of Americans, I too feed the plastic monster each month.) One of the things that makes credit so attractive is that you can make that low minimum payment. Presto, you don’t even have to worry about that looming pile of debt out there…you can just write your check for the month, then forget about it until the next one. How about the interest-only loan? Some really bright person thought this one up, and they’ve certainly made millions from it. What if you could borrow huge amounts of money, and never paid off the principal, until some date off in the murky future? You only pay the interest on the money. Wow! Debt consolidation is another one. (I’ve done this on several occasions.) What if you could borrow money to pay off money you borrowed before? You emerge from the bank with a smile, because you’ve bought yourself more time, and if you’re lucky, a lower interest rate. Unfortunately, all of these things are poor bricks with which to construct an economy, even poorer ones upon which to build a life.

What kind of message are we teaching our kids here? It’s OK to exceed your means, because there is really no accounting – no time when you have to pay the piper.

How about the idea of the tithe? Yes, we are taught to give 10% to help do God’s work. That is our reasonable service. But what rewards would we have available to us if we sought out ways to do more? What if, instead of doing our bit part and going home, that we looked for things to do?

Copyright 2010, by William D. Moak

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