Living with Gratitude & Generosity

Living with Gratitude & Generosity

What an honor to celebrate the baptisms of our disciples class on Sunday! I am so thankful and happy for this special group of young people in our church.

The month of April is a time for all of us to think about what it means to give back and make a difference. During our 2024 stewardship campaign “Loving God, Loving Nashville,” we are asking Woodmont families to make a commitment to support the church mission for another year (July 2024 through June 2025).

We seem to live in a culture with an economic system that, to some degree, fuels itself on coveting and desire. Social media has certainly exacerbated this. Are we not told over and over again by marketers and advertisers that we deserve things that are bigger, better, and nicer than what we have? Are we not told that we would be so much happier if we just went out and bought whatever it is they are promoting because we deserve it? Isn’t the American Dream predicated on the fundamental concept of having a better life than the previous generation? We don’t just want to give our kids what we had – we want to give them something bigger and better, right? And then we wonder why we are never satisfied and why so many feel entitled.

There was a study done at Princeton a few years back asking the question, “What level of household income does it take in order to be happy?” They used Gallup data from roughly half a million Americans and here’s what they discovered. The comfortable income standard for happiness in the United States is somewhere around $75,000. In other words, once a household income is above $75,000, they found that there is not a significant correlation to increased happiness. Clearly, they forgot to survey the people of Nashville for our input. That number needs to be adjusted for today’s dollars as costs have certainly risen in recent years. Their argument is once you get above $75,000 (or whatever the current number is), your happiness level does not go up in proportion to your income. Sure, you might have a nicer car or a bigger house but your basic needs are still being met.

There was another study done at Harvard over a 75-year period. They tracked 268 male students who graduated from Harvard between the years of 1938 and 1940, men who are now well into their 90s in order to find out what makes for a happy and meaningful life over the long haul. Guess what they discovered? Love is what matters most. Connection to other people and forming friendships is what matters. Moving from self-centeredness to connection is what matters, and working through challenges and adversity in life makes us who we are; without them, we cannot build character and learn resilience. They found that money and power, although important in achieving business success, do not necessarily equate to more happiness unless they are accompanied by the other things that bring us love, connection, and joy. Believe it or not, there are some lonely billionaires still looking for purpose.

Duke theologians Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon once said, “Our problem as humans is not that we are full of desire, aflame with unfulfillment. Our problem is that we long for that which is unfulfilling. We attempt to be content with that which can never satisfy….What we want is power and status. Alas, we find that no matter what we have acquired, there is always someone we envy.” We should heed the words of Paul: “I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty.”

Genuine gratitude for what we already have can help eliminate fear and anxiety, envy and jealousy. Generosity is an expression of a healthy faith. Please join me in continuing to support the mission and ministries of Woodmont.  Click here to make your pledge online.