Priorities

There was a man all alone;
    he had neither son nor brother.
There was no end to his toil,
    yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked,
    “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
This too is meaningless—
    a miserable business!

Ecclesiastes 4:8

I look back at my life and can often see where my priorities were out of balance. I’ll bet you can too, and they still may need tweaking even now. There was a time that I was the workaholic described by Solomon above. I was never satisfied with how much I had to the detriment of my family.

When I became a Christian, I knew something was badly out of kilter and that I was missing something. It was a game changer for me.

A friend of mine, Mark Wohlschlaeger, recently gave me a short book written by Mike Breen and Ben Stenke. It is titled Oikonomics.  It is an intriguing and worthwhile read and the good news? It is less than 100 pages.

The title uses the word Oikofrom the Greek word meaning house. The second part is based on the Greek word nomos which means “custom” or “law”. Thus, the original word “economy” was the rule or management of a household.  

Oikos meant more than a house with a family; it includes the broader relationships of the family of aunts, uncles and even business associates. 

The book looks at what the authors describe as the “Five Capitals” that each person invests in during their lifetime.  Each Capital is a different dimension to a person, but Jesus spoke about all of them. As the authors note, He was a great economist.  These concepts are another way of describing how one prioritizes his life. 

The five “Capitals” include Spiritual Capital, Relationship Capital, Physical Capital, Intellectual Capital, and lastly, Financial Capital.  That list is the order that Jesus prescribes, for Jesus considered Spiritual Capital as the most valuable. 

What intrigues me about the list is that I and others have gotten the list mixed up and in the wrong order. Jesus said:  Love God first and your neighbor as yourself second.  That puts Spiritual Capital (loving God) and Relational Capital (loving your neighbor) in order. But we often seek one or more of the other “Capitals” first.

Spiritual capital is a “way of talking about our relationship with God” which is our spiritual equity that we can invest in others. Its currency is wisdom and power. 

Relationship Capital is how much relational equity that we can use in investing in others. Mentoring the next generation comes to mind. It is an example of using that currency.

Intellectual capital is how much “creativity, ideas and knowledge” we have to invest. Physical Capital, similarly, is how much time and energy we have, resulting in how we use our time and our health.  Being physically and emotionally fit is important to maintain our other priorities.

Finally, Financial Capital is how much treasure we have to invest, as a result of our careers. Its currency is money.  Most are familiar with this, and we often get it wrong and put this at the top of the list. It can be, as the author’s note, “overvalued”.

The authors cite that studies show that after a certain threshold of income is achieved, “obtaining more money has almost no impact” on our satisfaction with life.  

The recent spectacular financial demise of philanthropist Bill Hwang is a case in point on misplaced priorities. As a person, he was charitable with many recipients including Fuller Seminary, Young Life and other Christian causes.

Yet, somehow, his motive to maximize the increase of his wealth took him to make foolish leveraged bets on the stock market with devastating financial effects. Billions of dollars were lost by banks who facilitated his investments.

Greed takes many forms.  Ecclesiastes 4:8 comes to mind where the workaholic invests all of his time and effort in his career without asking the question “Why am I doing this?”  Bill Hwang apparently didn’t ask that question either.

Where the authors take these concepts in different environments is thought provoking and interesting.  For example, the priorities of the Five Capitals in the workplace are in the following order of value: 

  1. Financial
  2. Intellectual
  3. Relational
  4. Physical
  5. Spiritual

That makes sense, but these are not the balanced priorities that Jesus taught.

In Academics, the order of value switches somewhat to the following:

  1. Intellectual
  2. Financial
  3. Relational
  4. Physical
  5. Spiritual

And finally, the order of the values of capital in the Church may surprise you:

  1. Physical (attendance)
  2. Financial (tithes and offerings)
  3. Relational
  4. Spiritual 
  5. Intellectual

If there was ever a messed up order of priorities for a church, these are the times. We are seeing wholesale closing of churches in America after the pandemic, and most of them are closing because of the above priorities.  

Churches that survive in today’s world will value the Spiritual Capital of its members most. Investing in the next generation is important and mentoring is one of the tools that God has given us to pass on our Spiritual Capital to future generations. 

The challenge is for each of us to consider what our priorities are and what they should be according to Jesus. It is easy to get sidetracked. The next generation is also struggling with their priorities in a very difficult cultural world. They need help in navigating the right choices.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  A mentor has experienced  wrong priorities and choices in life and is in the best position to guide a mentee to avoid mistakes. That is invaluable. 

FURTHER READING:  Oikonomics:  How to Invest in Life’s Five Capitals the Way Jesus Did

Money only Buys Happiness for a Certain Amount – Purdue

WORSHIP:  Is He Worthy – Chris Tomlin

For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.

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