He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. —Isaiah 61:1
Author’s note: Entering a foreign culture is cause for reflection and opportunity for comparison. Sitting on the plane returning from a mission trip to Tanzania, Africa, and then waiting for a delayed connecting flight in a busy DFW airport, my thoughts turned in this direction.
Though Americans and Tanzanians live on the same planet, they live in different worlds. In so many ways we are a hundred years ahead of them—medically, technologically, educationally, and materially. We would not even consider trading places with them. In areas like transportation, food preparation, hygiene, farming, and entertainment, their lifestyle does not even register on the same scale with the American way of life. For these reasons, we feel sympathy for them.
But in other ways, they still have what we left behind. They seem to enjoy life and laugh a lot more than most Americans (cf. Proverbs 17:22). They still have time for Bible classes and preaching (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:18). They have large families with plenty of children playing all around (cf. Psalm 127:3–5). They still enjoy the simple pleasures we gave up long ago. They are not rushed; they have time to “stop and smell the roses.” For these reasons, we find ourselves a little envious.
So, who has the good life? You decide. . . .
They worry about getting enough vitamins and protein in their diet; we worry about getting too much cholesterol and fat.
Their clothes are worn out because they wash them on a rock; ours are thrown out because they are last year’s fashions (cf. Matthew 6:31–32).
They worry about chasing rats away; we worry about winning the rat race. “‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’ For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat” (Mark 6:31).
They live in mud huts because they cannot afford better houses; we live in better houses we cannot afford. “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15).
They are poor and humble; we are rich and proud. “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).
They die at forty with disease and poor medicine; we die at fifty with heart attacks and lung cancer. “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit? Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).
Their women never wear pants in public, only dresses; ours wear hardly anything at all. “In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation” (1 Timothy 2:9).
They bathe nearly naked in a river for lack of indoor plumbing; we have plumbing and sunbathe nearly naked. “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Men and women should resolve “not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s [or sister’s] way” (Romans 14:13).
They are glad to have any clothes without holes; we will not wear clothes unless they have the right name on them. We should not seek notice for our attire, as with “braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing” (1 Timothy 2:9).
Their children are poorly dressed but sit quietly through two-hour services; ours are immaculately clothed but get a drink of water every ten minutes and will not behave. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1).
They are not bothered with hypertension and lung cancer; we have wiped out malaria and typhoid.
They worry about malnutrition, undernourishment, and starvation; we worry about anorexia, obesity, and bulimia.
They are poor and satisfied; we are rich and discontented. “Now godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).
They have little and want little; we have a lot and want more. “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:7–8).
They ask for an extra preaching service each night; we complain if the preacher goes over by five minutes. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
They know nothing of TVs; then again, they know nothing of dirty movies and seven wasted hours a day. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). We should be “redeeming the time” (Ephesians 5:16).
Many do not have phones, but they do not have telemarketing either.
Their pace is slow, but they have time to talk after a worship service; ours is fast, but we have little time for each other. “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).
They have no cars, so they walk everywhere; we drive everywhere and then walk in the park for exercise.
Their men unscripturally marry seven wives at a time; ours unscripturally marry seven wives one after another. “Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9).
They live in misery and long for heaven; we live in luxury and doubt the afterlife. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20); “These will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46).
Their children play with homemade toys for hours; ours tire of electronic games a few minutes after opening them.
They are poor, and steal; we are rich, and covet. “Let him who stole steal no longer” (Ephesians 4:28); “Therefore put to death . . . covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).
They believe in superstition and witchcraft; we have hotels with no thirteenth floor and horoscopes we read every morning. “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are . . . idolatry, sorcery, hatred” (Galatians 5:19–20).
They live in mud huts with no doors but are unafraid; we live in mansions with alarms and fear for our lives.
They have no Bibles but beg for them; we have several that we rarely open. “They received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
Which has the good life? Neither. Then who does? Those who make it to the perfect land of eternal delight (Revelation 21)!