Friday, June 20, 2008

The World According To Norman

Some people say that they see God in art. Well, in many ways, they are right. Most of us have seen the paintings by Norman Rockwell. If not, you’re missing out on a wonderful porthole to Americana. The images depict white picket fences, children eating ice cream cones, the innocence of a child and his first puppy, and a seemingly simple view of life in America. Through these images we see a world that seems to be almost fantasy and a life that seems distant and unrealistic. Some will even say that this view of life is just make believe and unobtainable. Whether you believe that these paintings represent real life or not, one cannot help but sense a desire to possess just a little piece of life as seen through Rockwell’s eyes.

Although our culture may have drifted far from the Norman Rockwell’s vision of life, I believe that it may not be as unrealistic as we might think. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this might be closer to the lives that God has intended for us, and I believe that the key lies within “simplicity”. Let’s face it: our lives have become more cluttered, hectic and fast-paced. Whether in the work place or home, we find ourselves literal slaves to the “to do lists”. The list gets longer and longer, and we feel as if we never seem to accomplish much of anything. We work for bigger homes and have smaller families and yet never seem to feel at home as much as we would like to. Proverbs 23:4 says, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich.” We are not told to avoid becoming rich. On the contrary, God wants us to be prosperous; sometimes that means monetary wealth, and other times not. The point He is trying to make is that we should avoid focusing our lives on the idea that we must be rich to be happy and to find spiritual peace. The key to peace within your circumstances lies in the focus of your life.

We celebrated Christ’s death a couple of months ago, so we have been able to look very closely at our savior’s life and the way in which He lived. If there were any lifestyle that we should base ours on, the life of Jesus would be the quintessential example. In the book of Matthew 8: 20, Jesus talks about the cost of following Him. “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Notice that He does not compare himself to the lifestyle of man. He compares Himself to the life of animals that have the simplest lives of all living creatures. Matthew himself was a tax collector and very wealthy, yet he gave up all he had for a life of following Christ. Now, do we need to sell all that we have in order to have a fulfilling life in Christ? Not at all. In fact, I feel that His intention is for us to have life abundantly. These extreme examples of life with Christ show clearly that our focus can only be on one thing. “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” Matthew 6:24.

To sum it up, as children of God, we should “be content in whatever the circumstances”. Phillippians 4:11. The apostle Paul lived a life of pure contentment. Even while in prison, where he wrote some of his most important works of his ministry, he knew the meaning of being content. He teaches us that we can be content in any circumstance if our lives are built with Christ as the center. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:34.

These illustrations only touch the surface of the Bible’s teachings on contentment, money and focusing solely on God, but I think it gives us a very clear direction. The simple images of life seen in Norman Rockwell’s paintings are obtainable and real. They are not make-believe but they represent you and me and that simplicity is the key that leads to contentment.


Carri said...

One of my favorite (and taken to heart) passages of Scripture on the subject of wealth:

"Two things have I required of Thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny Thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the Name of my God in vain."

Proverbs 30:7-9

BTW: America actually enjoyed those days of Rockwell's Americana, once upon a time. My grandparents would sigh deeply for those more simpler days when neighbors looked out for one another in the community and the youth of the town were "everybody's kids and concern" and were disciplined in respect and righteousness.

The Ten Commandments were still in vogue back then; and Bible's were still the school's first reading Primer. I seem to have been born on the fringe edges of the demise of that era. Bob remembers it's slow death, however, and can relate to our grandparent's sighs.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Life is much more simple when you are not trying to keep up with everyone else. Some people find their purpose in life is to consume, we call them Americans. ;) jk but seriously if Christians at a minimum could realize the importance of not being burdened with having more stuff it could change who the church is. Eh, maybe I am wrong? Good post though.