My lovely wife recently pointed out the Tytler cycle to me, which I find very intriguing. It was conceived by the Scottish Historian Alexander Tytler, and posits that every democracy goes through the same cycle, which looks like this:
The first stage moves from bondage to spiritual faith.
The second from spiritual faith to great courage.
The third stage moves from great courage to liberty.
The fourth stage moves from liberty to abundance.
The fifth stage moves from abundance to selfishness.
The sixth stage moves from selfishness to complacency.
The seventh stage moves from complacency to apathy.
The eighth stage moves from apathy to moral decay.
The ninth stage moves from moral decay to dependence.
And the tenth and last stage moves from dependence to bondage.
This can be drawn in a circle as well, to depict the full cycle including from the bottom back up to the top.
Now clearly this has implications politically right now, but that is not what I have been thinking about quite as much. What I have been thinking about is the clear demarcation in stage 5, where the positive ascent resulting in abundance, gives way to selfishness and then the death spiral. Stage 5 is the tipping point. If an individual could climb the stages and stay in abundance without moving to selfishness, grand things could be accomplished. Abundance without selfishness. Abundance without selfishness.
In Proverbs 30, Agur says "give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise I may have too much and disown you and say, 'who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." Abundance without selfishness, without self importance, without pride in what I have or what I have done is next to impossible. It reminds me of Jesus saying that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Now, lest you feel you are off the hook for being rich, 1% of the worlds population makes $38,000 per year or more (the stats vary, so it may be slightly lower than that). That means that all of us in the US live in abundance, because even if we are not in the top 1% we are for sure in the top 5. I would also venture to say that we all deal with selfishness.
We watched a documentary last night called Living on One Dollar, which is about 4 college students that decide to take two months of their lives to see what it is like to live on a dollar a day in Guatemala, where that is a common income. The most impactful part of the movie for me was seeing how generous the Guatemalan people are, how willing to help and give of themselves, and in the end how generous the 4 students were as well. There is something very powerful about people who have very little being so willing to share.