Thriver’s Guilt: Some Remedies (Part 2)

Thriver Remedy Generous and Genuine shutterstock_1216857

In my previous two blogs, I have been exploring the phenomenon I call “Thriver’s Guilt.” What do we do with the guilt we feel when we thrive, but others around us struggle? In the first blog (December 2, 2019), I defined it, and in the next blog (December 9, 2019) I shared the first remedy: Be Grateful.

Thriver’s guilt falls under the broad category of false guilt. Genuine guilt is our healthy reaction to violating a law or standard, especially God’s standards. False guilt is the feeling we have done wrong when we have not, in fact, violated a law or standard.

The “remedies” for false guilt are found primarily in the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). We correct the lies we are telling ourselves by learning the truth of God’s Word, applied by God’s Holy Spirit.

So in this post, let’s consider two more important remedies (in addition to Remedy #1: Be Grateful) for thriver’s guilt.

Remedy #2: Be Generous

The biblical pattern has always been “blessed to be a blessing.” God’s blessings are for our enjoyment as well as our partnership with the Lord.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing (Genesis 12:1-2 NIV).

We are too easily seduced by the lie, for example, that it’s wrong to have nice things. It’s just stuff–until it becomes God’s stuff. God uses our resources to further Kingdom work in big as well as small ways. If you are blessed with a lovely home, share it. If you are blessed with a small apartment, share it. Whatever we have, the spirit of generosity blesses others and reminds us how much we are blessed.

Generosity and the faithful stewardship of our gifts and resources express the obedience Jesus called for when he commanded us to let our light shine.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-17 NIV).

God has entrusted us with time, with personality and temperament characteristics, with spiritual, financial and material resources that we are to steward for the extension of his kingdom.

As Paul reminded us:

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:6-8 NIV).

To conclude with one more scripture on this topic, it’s interesting to me that Paul did not tell the “rich” to sell everything and give the proceeds to poor.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share (1 Timothy 6:17-18 NIV).

In his book Gospel Patrons: People Whose Generosity Changed the World, John Rinehart writes about many historical leaders like Tyndale, Wilberforce, Whitefield and Newton — and we could name many contemporaries–who brought redemptive change to their times because of wealthy benefactors (quoted by Steve Perry in Living With Wealth without Losing Your Soul, New York: Rosetta Books, 2016). Steve Perry continued, “It’s not wrong to lay up treasure for yourself! But you do so not by hanging on to every last penny, but by seeking ways to be ‘rich in good deeds.'”

Remedy #3: Be Genuine

Be real both in admitting your struggles and sharing your joys. It’s takes a certain amount of courage to share your joys. Learn to communicate in a way that can be a testimony of God’s faithfulness to encourage people.

Appropriate disclosure is the key. As Proverbs counsels us:

Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart (Proverbs 25:20 NIV).

So we don’t parade our blessings thoughtlessly in front of those who can’t remember the last time they had something wonderful to share. But Scripture also says,

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story (Psalm 107:1-2 NIV).

We are sensitive to those who are struggling, but we still tell our story about God’s goodness.

It is wise to be intentional about finding safe friends and colleagues who can hear your excitement and satisfaction. But this does not mean we cover-up what God’s doing in our lives.

Be ready for comments from those who are not in a good place. If you sense resentment, do not be defensive. Focus on the person. You might ask, “So, would you like to share what’s going on?” Deep down, we are all longing for affirmation, for validation, and for assurance that we matter to each other and to God.

The fundamental principle for community, both for those who are doing well and for those who are struggling is the same:

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15 NIV).

There’s much more to share, but I hope this gives some ideas for handling false guilt in general and Thriver’s Guilt in particular.

Be Grateful: Receive God’s good gifts with humility, always remembering the Giver.

Be Generous: Share what God has entrusted to you.

Be Genuine: Let your light shine in ways that meet others with compassion and encouragement.

Good Stuff?

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Let’s face it, stuff can be a problem. We are body/ soul beings. (I don’t like to say we “have” bodies because we really are a “package deal” of body-and-soul together in this life—and the one to come!) As a result, we need food, shelter and clothing and have to deal with economic realities. But is it okay to enjoy our things? To have and do nice things? There is a strong streak of asceticism in Christian tradition, in which people abstain from or minimize material and sensual pleasures in order to express their spiritual commitment. This is very personal matter that some really find a struggle, and many have never considered.

I was leaving church at lunchtime one afternoon when a young mom I’ll call Jen saw me unlock my car. “That’s your car?” she exclaimed (Yes, that’s an unusual word to describe her speech, but she sounded alarmed).

“Sure is,” I said, with a bit of chuckle, confused by her excitement.

“That’s not… but that’s not a pastor’s car!” she said with a sense of disappointment.

She was joking, right? She had to be. But she wasn’t. My mind was racing (no pun intended) for a spiritual response. All I could come up with, “It’s a gift.”

You see, my wife, Sarah, is all about gifts and grace and spoiling people, especially me. For my 50th birthday she got an amazing deal on a seven-year old German import convertible by purchasing it from a very close friend. It cost far less than a new Toyota Corolla or similar “affordable” car. Sarah knew I would never buy a car like that for myself—but how could I refuse her gift?

So there I was, standing next to this love-gift, this grace-gift, from my wife, feeling judged by a member of our congregation. Like I had to defend my wife’s expression of love and care?

I have honestly blanked on the rest of my conversation with Jen, if there was any. But I’ve never forgotten the sting of her comment. It made me do some soul-searching, to be sure. I am one who is quick to feel guilty. I spend a lot of time in the tension between enjoying God’s good creation and not being captive to materialism.

I thought of Paul’s words to Timothy in response to those who were teaching against marriage and the enjoyment of various foods.

“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5 ESV).

There is certainly a basis for drawing the principle from this passage that there are definitely times and places for good stuff. And we also have Paul’s exhortation to the “rich,” in which he does not condemn their wealth per se, but encourages them to look beyond their own well-being and enjoyment.

“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:17-19 ESV).

If you really want to wrestle with this more deeply, start with Romans 14:1-5. But for now, let me just say I thank God for the goodness of life and seek to enjoy that goodness and share it with others. How about you?