A survey asked people from across the world what they value most in life. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ‘Better Life Initiative’ collected data continuously from 2011. About 60,000 responses from 180 countries were gathered. The so called ‘Better Life Index’ makes it possible to compare wellbeing across countries using the ten topics that the OECD considered essential in terms of material living and quality of life: safety, housing, jobs, income, work-life balance, life satisfaction, health, education, governance, community and environment.
In Europe, the UK, Sweden, Germany, Finland and Poland chose life satisfaction as their top priority; while health was valued most in Russia, Norway, Iceland, France and Austria. Cyprus was the only European country where people selected a work-life balance as their highest priority, while the people of Ukraine and Albania valued income the most. Our personal views may differ. But what does our lifestyle say?
It’s an important question to answer honestly, since what we value most will determine how we live. In the West we have so much and yet can have so little that matters. Jesus said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul’ (Mk 8v34-36).
During the run up to Easter (‘Lent’) followers of Jesus may observe a time of penitence: a time to reflect on our life style and the direction we are taking. If a person chooses to accompany this by a fast (either a modest change in the things we eat and drink, or missing a meal each day), then it can highlight what we want most as opposed what we need most. We might discover that we do not have to eat chocolate in order to live (some readers may dispute this I suspect!). The time saved can free up time to develop a spiritual discipline of Bible reading and prayer as we consider what we put above everything else. Jesus asks us to put him above everything else – above our own plans/comfort/popularity. For then we will have what matters most: Jesus Christ, who is above everything.
Do come and join our Lent course ‘Life of Jesus – the man and why he matters.’