“Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10
When I was a young businessman, lunch with my business colleagues was inevitably focused on the subject of how to make more money. Some years later, and I don’t recall exactly when, that began to change – I suppose after we had all attained a certain level of success – our lunch conversations shifted from how to make money to how to make a difference. Fast forward to today, most of us have retired from that competitive business world and devote ourselves entirely to using our time and resources to make a difference, either by going into helping professions as I have done, or volunteering in our communities, churches, and service organizations.
What could have caused such a transformation in our priorities? I can’t speak for my friends, but I know what happened with me. One day it occurred to me that success, in and of itself, did not satisfy the yearning I had for my life to mean something. Most likely they experienced a similar epiphany. Yes, there is a certain satisfaction in accomplishment, but merely achieving a level of prosperity is not enough. This is nothing new, of course. As the writer of Ecclesiastes expressed thousands of years ago, “What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? . . . Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! . . . a chasing after the wind.”
Our labors and our successes are not meaningless, of course, when we shift our priorities toward making a difference rather than simply making money (or other earthly pursuits such as personal recognition, awards, academic degrees, or political power). As my friends and I began to realize, it is about turning our attention away from ourselves to helping others.
It has been said that Benjamin Franklin spent the first half of his life becoming successful and accumulating wealth. The second half he spent investing his time and resources in making a difference. Not that any of us can compare ourselves to the business successes or contributions to mankind of this great Father of our country, but he certainly set an example to follow. For in the end the only thing that can truly satisfy the yearning for our lives to mean something is to follow the teachings of the Apostle Paul, that is to “Honor one another above yourselves.”