Friendship and Lifestyle

friendship-1081843_1920This week I received an email from a dear friend who lives in a village outside of Krakow, Poland. She is a beautiful example of a devoted Catholic mother and wife, and although I have only been with her a handful of times, we are sisters of the heart. She and her husband stayed with us when they visited Florida in January and we had stayed with them several times when we were on ministry trips to Poland.

I think they live a fairly typical Polish lifestyle, but by any American’s opinion, their lifestyle would be outside of a typical mainstream American lifestyle.

There is no TV in their home. For entertainment, the children do crafts, read, or play games with each other. Clothes are washed in a washing machine and dried outside on a clothes line, even in the coldest weather. She walks to the butcher and the market to buy groceries. Both of these stores are small shops about the size of a garage and have a limited supply of basic necessities. A lot of food like bread is made at home from scratch. And there is not a fast food place to be found in their entire village.

Their lifestyle does not have most of the things we consider to be necessary based on our standard American lifestyle.

If we moved to their village, it would be significantly different than the way that we live right now and it would probably feel uncomfortable. Can you imagine not having access to a modern American grocery store or walking to the store to buy from a limited selection of items? When I think about how they live, I can appreciate a few aspects, but overall it feels strange to me based on how I’ve lived my life in America.

That doesn’t mean that it is wrong. What it means is that it is so different from what I consider “normal” from what I am accustomed to, that it creates a sense of discomfort.

Being with these two beautiful people whose lifestyle is so much simpler—but not necessarily easier—than ours made me think about our lifestyles in America.

In many ways, we are all living a lifestyle that mimics what surrounds us. Our family, friends, choice of television shows, websites, magazines, and books all influence our lifestyle. On some level, these things show us how people in our culture live and we tend to incorporate that style into how we live.

Now, think about being removed from your American lifestyle and plopped down in the middle of a small village in Poland. Would you feel some level of disconnect between your American lifestyle and your Polish lifestyle? Will you start to fall into patterns of Polish life? Or will you continue a lot of the patterns of your American life?

The answer to how much you assimilate into a Polish lifestyle probably depends heavily on who surrounds you. Do you spend a lot of time with other Americans in Poland or do you embrace the local culture and immerse yourself in it?

If we moved to their small village in Poland, I am sure our friends would help us find suitable housing. They would refer us to the local Catholic church and introduce us to the priest. We would be introduced to their friends and included in some of their family activities. They would help us learn where to shop, what to buy and how to get around. In other words, they would help us change our lifestyle to be less American and more Polish.

Interesting thoughts, but how does that relate to our mission of Biblical finances? The answer is simple. If you want to follow Biblical financial principles, and be a good steward of God’s blessings, surround yourself with people who share those values.

The more aware you are about the people in your life, the things you read, the things you watch on television and the websites you visit the more you can mold your lifestyle to be a steward of God’s blessings.

Stop using shopping as a vehicle for entertainment and only shop for necessities. At home, turn off the television and read a good book, or play games with the children. Take up a hobby. When you are with others, disengage in conversations about all the ‘stuff’ people have and the things they bought and the things they want. In other words, find ways to disengage from the typical American consumer-based mindset where happiness comes from how much stuff you can accumulate.

As you make these subtle changes, you will gradually enjoy spending more time with those people who live a stewardship lifestyle and less time with those people who live a typical American lifestyle based on consumerism and debt.

It’s actually pretty easy. If you want to be a good steward, surround yourself with people who are good stewards. Seek out those people who live a life similar to the one you want.

As Catholics our friendships should be founded not only upon a similar lifestyle, respect, and love for each other but also upon the mutual love of Jesus Christ.

Jesus shared His whole life in a community of brothers and sisters. He fished with them, went to weddings and dinner parties. He prayed for them, and with them. He loved them and forgave them. He taught them the way of his Father. He even washed their feet.

This early Christian Community laughed together, cried together, and sang together. They shared in the agony and pain of death and in the joy of the Resurrection. Think about this—it is only when Jesus was alone that Satan tried to attack.

They knew that they needed each other to persevere in the Christian life, and so do we. There is nothing that can help you be a better steward than surrounding yourself with people who have the same goal, people who will love and support you and encourage you when things get tough. And most importantly pray for you.

So to end this blog, here are some Bible verses that reiterate the value of true Christian friendship:

Sirach 6:15 – Faithful friends are beyond price, no amount can balance their worth.

Sirach 37:5 – A good friend will fight with you against the foe, and against your enemies he will hold up your shield.

Proverbs 17:17 – A friend is a friend at all times, and a brother is born for the time of adversity.

Sirach 6:16 – Faithful friends are life-saving medicine; those who fear God will find them.

Sirach 25:9 – Happy the one who finds a friend, who speaks to attentive ears.

Job 2:11- Now when three of Job’s friends heard of all the misfortune that had come upon him, they set out each one from his own place: Eliphaz from Teman, Bildad from Shuh, and Zophar from Naamath. They met and journeyed together to give him sympathy and comfort.

Sirach 6:17 – Those who fear the Lord enjoy stable friendship, for as they are, so will their neighbors be.

Sirach 40:20 – Wine and strong drink delight the soul, but better than either, love of friends.

No amount of money or stuff can take the place of true friendships based on a mutual love of Christ.

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