I am in a transition stage in my life, moving from 8 years of tertiary study to full time employment.
One of the strangest transitions for me is going to earning the equivalent of just over half minimum wage as a PhD student, to earning enough as a research scientist to place me in the top 0.24% of the richest people in the world by income. Otherwise put – I am the 14,300,000th richest person on the Earth (www.globalrichlist.com).
Knowing this makes me question: what do I spend my money on?
The answer to this question is too often "something of little intrinsic value". Apart from mortgage and daily living expenses, it is easy to spend the majority of my disposable income on trivialities and comforts – things to make my life easier or to prevent myself getting bored: television, movies, restaurants, video games, hobbies.
For others is might be designer shoes, furniture or the latest phone. Whatever I spend my money on, disappointingly little of it goes towards making a meaningful contribution to the lives of others.
Whilst we are not all called to drop our wealth and live meagre lives, we should be prepared to do so at a moment's notice. There is a strong Biblical history of people sacrificing comfortable lives for the sake for God and Christ. One only needs to look at the lives of Jesus and the disciples to see the kind of humble lives that followers of Christ have led. When Jesus sent out his disciples in Matthew chapter 10, verses 9-10, he commanded:
"Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts – no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep."
More practically for us, an example of Christian community is seen in Acts chapter 4, verses 32-35, with Christians selling their possessions and selling off assets to support the community:
"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need."
The struggle to live generously
Even with my relatively great wealth and comfort I still often struggle to give – as my comfort and security is difficult to leave. Yet it's sobering to see what failing to sacrifice can do. In Acts chapter 5, verses 1-11 Ananias and Sapphira, a husband and wife, sold their possessions while knowingly hiding some of their money for themselves. For this God struck them down!
My hope for myself and my family is that we can set examples of a Christian community as shown in Acts. I want to sacrifice whatever I need to in order help the community. Like most Christians in the west I think I could afford to do more – and maybe if we all did, we could have no truly needy amongst us.
Nathanael Yates from Perth, Western Australia, is an award winning young scientist completing a PhD in the neurobiology of schizophrenia.
Nathanael Yates' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/nathanael-yates.html