Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Tangible and the Intangible Rewards of Right Actions

The true harvest of my life is intangible - a little star dust caught, a portion of the rainbow I have clutched. - Henry David Thoreau

The Tangible Rewards of Right Actions

When we take right actions, we have expectations that certain visible results or rewards will follow. When we get on a budget with our finances, then we assume that we will be able to save some money, pay off debt, spend money with a purpose, and give more to God's Kingdom. With a simple budget spreadsheet, we can measure our financial actions and rewards.

The same is true with losing weight. When we decide to get healthy and lose some weight through diet and exercise, then we expect that we will lose a certain amount through these right actions. We can track our progress through measuring our weight on a scale, measuring our body mass index, and using a tape measure to measure our waistline.

There are tangible rewards for taking right actions in various areas of our lives, but there are often other intangible benefits that follow along with the tangible ones.

Definitions defines the following two words as:
Tangible: real or actual, rather than imaginary or visionary. Definite; not vague or elusive.
Intangible: not tangible; incapable of being perceived by the sense of touch, as incorporeal or immaterial things; not definite or clear to the mind.
Another way to think about these two terms is the visible or invisible. Or, stated another way, in terms of what is measurable and what is not measurable.

The Intangible Rewards of Right Actions

Let's go back to our examples above. In the case of our family finances, again, we have expectations that as we do right things with our money, then we will have the margins to give, save, spend, and invest as we should. These are the tangible benefits, but there are also intangible ones that accompany these better behaviors. We will gain financial discipline as we handle our money better. We begin to be joyful and content with what the Lord has blessed us with. Our personal character will begin to be transformed. Discipline, joy, and contentment are unmeasurable - there is no way you can chart these on a spreadsheet. They are those invisible benefits that we gain through right financial decisions and actions.

The same thing happens with weight loss. We can measure all the visible, outward elements of getting our bodies in better physical condition. We can track important variables such as calorie intake, actual fat loss, and muscle gain. In the process of taking these healthier actions, though, we start to build our character. We build discipline into our lives through saying "no" to unhealthy and "yes" to better alternatives.

Tangible or Intangible. Which Is Better?

So the question begs to be asked, which is better, tangible or intangible benefits? They are both beneficial, but the intangible will be of greater benefit long-term because it shapes our character. At the end of the day, God is more interested in our character than anything else. In Romans 5:3-4, Paul writes:
Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation (AMP).
I know in my own financial life, I have a stronger, more disciplined character because I took right actions to get on a budget, pay off all my debt, give more back to God, and save. As you character grows and you become more disciplined in one area of your life, the great thing is that this often translates to other areas of your life as well. The discipline you have developed in one area such as money, you can turn around and apply it to your spiritual life, your health, your business, and your relationships.

The intangible reward of right actions is character building. Focus on taking right actions in areas of your life that need to change. Allow growth to take place in your character. The tangible rewards are satisfying and beneficial, but the intangible rewards will far exceed and outlast the tangible.
Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent. Most talents are to some extent a gift. Good character, by contrast, is not given to us. We have to build it piece by piece by thought, choice, courage and determination. - John Luther
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