Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Piling Up" (our hopes, not unemployment figures)

This is a pictorial grimly summarized (Credit: The Straits Times Singapore, Nov 20th 2008 page A3) the latest unemployment figures worldwide. Leading the way are the financial and technology sectors which are cutting jobs more than 5x-7x the rate of the third largest. We are talking of a huge number of job losses. Aong with it are tumbling of hopes.

Hope even in bleak moments
Are there any reasons for hope during such bleak times? As a news reader, it is difficult to develop any inspiration or positive outlook of the future by reading bad news. As a news reporter, bad news attracts more attention than good news. After-all, readership numbers are important. Hence the saying, 'no news is good news' still rings true. As a Christian reader, should we succumb easily to such depressing headlines? No. We do not need to fret. We have been taught by Jesus:
"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Luke 12:32-34)
Just before this exhortation to bless others, Jesus reminded the disciples not to worry. As much as the sparrows and the lilies are cared for, without them having to worry, how much more will our heavenly Father care for us? This is what I understand as "From Empty --> Full"; upon transformation of our focus from things to the kingdom of God, we move from "Full to Emptying of ourselves."
A) FROM Possessing Nothing TO Having Everything (Luke 12:22-29)
B) It is not about things. It is about God's kingdom. Seek kingdom first, these secondary things will be ADDED unto us as we glimpse and receive the kingdom (Luke 12:30-31)
C) Having received the kingdom, we felt blessed to bless others (Luke 12:32-34)
The key verse in the Luke 12 passage is this:
"For Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Luke 12:34)

Hope Comes in 'Little' Ways
I am intrigued by a small detail in verse 32. Jesus used the word "μικρὸν" which is Greek for 'little.' It is pronounced as mikron ('mik' as in 'Mic'key and 'ron' as in 'Ron'ny), reminding us of 'micro', or 'micron' size. This is the often the smallest standard unit of measuring tiny stuff. I remember when I was working in a semiconductor cleanroom environment, we measure tiny particles in terms of microns. Such measurement is critical as the particles are not allowed to go near sensitive electonics that require a 'clean' environment. What is invisible to the naked eye can cause visible damage to micr-electronic components. There are 25400 microns in one inch. Other examples are:
- Human Hair (30-300 microns)
- Pollen (10-1000 microns)
- Saw dust (30-600 microns)
- Mold spores (10-30 microns)
- Carbon Monoxide particle (2.5 micron)
- Liquid droplets (0.5-5 microns)
- Smoke (0.01 - 4 microns)

Even our breath emit particles large enough (sub microns) to damage electonics, hence all workers need to wear protective face masks to avoid releasing harmful particles that will affect semiconductor yields. Jesus knows the state of a worried being. We feel 'micron' sized when faced with huge challenges. Like a small lamb hiding itself in fear when facing a large lion, we too have a tendency to feel small and discouraged when confronting large and seemingly impossible situations.

Interestingly, Jesus encourages the hearers at that time with a brilliant use of contrast. The tiniest of all, can receive the greatest. If anyone of us feels extremely small and discouraged, we are prime candidates for God to inspire and encourage. When Jesus tells us that where our treasure is, there our heart will also be, he is strongly pointing to an important truth. We may feel small but our hearts need not be small. A small wallet in the hands of a generous heart will reap huge dividends. A small set of arms hugged with a big gentle heart creates far more warmth. A small voice spoken with a loving heart reaches beyond the ears into the bottom of the heart. Where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. May that treasure of our lives, be the kingdom of God. Possessions, security of jobs and general well-being are important. Material stuff are essential for our daily needs. God knows all our needs. In fact, he knows our greater need is not these things. Our deepest need is God. For when we experience God, not only these earthly things will be ADDED unto us, we become ever more willing to give them away to bless others.

Yes. Unemployment figures may be piling up but that is no reason to be dumbing down our hopes. In fact, hard times are great opportunities for us to be God's beacon of hope for the world. We can look up to God, look out for others, and above all love ALL for God. That is a sign of a transformed life for Christ. Let not unemployment numbers shut us down. Let not the doom-and-gloom economists depress us with their 'intelligent' analysis of the world economy into helplessness. Pile up our hearts with hope. Then we can look up to God, look out for others and let God's love manifest mightily through us. We do not need to have a big bank account or a big physical body or possessions to do big things. All we need is a big heart of hope.


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