Life lessons from a wealthy, old Jewish widow

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One of my daughters has just bought a home. During the past few months she has looked at many homes. Many of them have been short sales, or foreclosed homes.
To me it was a visual lesson observing firsthand how many people still over commit themselves financially. For many of these people, they have experienced some unexpected circumstance, like a loss of a job, or a pile of medical bills, and the family finds themselves living with too much debt and not enough income-a recipe for financial disaster.

So, with my daughter’s house-buying situation fresh on my mind, I came upon a story about Gutle Rothschild. She was the wife of Mayer Amschel Rothschild. He was the father of the “Frankfurt five”. Five boys, who were groomed by their father, who became among the richest family in Europe during the early 19th century. They were the Rockefellers of their day.

What made Gutle Rothschild stand out to me is that this woman seemed content to live in a very rough, very congested neighborhood until her death at 95 years old. She “set her face firmly against ostentation” (a line from the book, “Rothschild” by Derek Wilson). Although, she would have been financially able to live out her life in the country, surrounded by all the luxuries her money could buy, she chose to live the “simple life of a typical pious Jewish widow – determined, warm-hearted and dictatorial” .

Gutle followed the careers of her sons with interest and pride, exchanging gifts, giving sage advice, always urging upon them the importance of holy and simple living. But never would she visit them to see for herself what great men they had become. Her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren always had to come to her, even though that meant leaving their carriages at the end of narrow Judengasse and picking their fastidious way along the grimy street” (another excerpt from “Rothschild”).

“Holy and simple living”–there is something refreshing about that vision for living my life.

Maybe good is good enough

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Proverbs 30:8-9 (NLT) says: “First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name. ”

Why would someone ask to have God limit their wealth?

The verse goes on to say why? Because if they grow too rich, they may deny the Lord. In other words, their attitude would be proud, as they think to themselves, “who needs God? I’m doing well enough on my own”. That attitude can be tragic.

I just wonder if that same kind of reasoning could apply to other areas of life, such as work, health, even family where we are not content having enough, but we move towards excess. We can so over-prioritize a certain area of our life that we can reap positive results from it, but realize later that we have been neglecting other areas of our life. Also, we can realize that we might be guilty, like so many before us, that in our “successes”, in whatever area of life it is, our hearts have become proud.

So, it just makes me wonder, if focusing so much on one specific area of life (“rich”, if you will) can lead to “success”, but also pride (leading to other consequences), maybe good is just good enough!

“Practice the Art of Quitting” –excerpt by Michael Hyatt

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I love this excerpt from Michael Hyatt’s “Shave 10 hours off your workweek” :

“My parents taught me, “Always clean your plate” and “always finish what you start.” But let’s not fool ourselves. The first one is a recipe for gaining weight. The second one is a formula for not getting much done.”

* you don’t need to finish every book you start
* you don’t need to complete every project you begin
* you don’t need to continue habits that no longer serve you

We need to cultivate the habit of non-finishing. Not every project you start is worth finishing. Sometimes we get into it and realize, ” This is a waste of time.” So give yourself permission to quit.