being, the “I” is subject and the primary
focus. Who am I? What am I like at the
core? What is my essence, my foundation,
my centre? In contrast, when my behaviour and performance is the focus, the
verb “I do” is the emphasis. What do I do?
How do I act? How do I perform? Having
directs our attention to the object. It is not
about who I am or what I do, but about
what “I have” or possess.
It changes with the seasons
The newborn infant is not valued by
others (or by herself) for what she does or
what she has, but is prized for who she is.
Her arrival and existence are celebrated
without her engaging in good or bad behaviour, or having a lot or a little in terms
At the other end of life’s trajectory are
those in their sunset years, who are not
only uninterested in doing or having to the
same degree but are often incapable of
performing or acquiring. They too are
often seen for who they are. Their essence
and identity shines through. Their funerals are often a celebration of those being
qualities rather than lists of behaviours
Infants and seniors often live out a
fundamental reality that the rest of us
struggle with. Many of the rest of us spend
our lives avoiding the real questions of
being, identity and essence, and fall prey
to the seductive message of both the culture and our hearts that doing and having
are all that matter.
Is it fair to say most of us are preoccupied with doing, silent about the subject
of having and rather ignorant of being?
Of course we are not all the same.
Those of us who are Traditionalists (born
before 1945) and Baby Boomers (born
between 1946 and 1964) can be quite
different from Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980) and the Millennials (born between 1981 and 2000).
With a focus on the duty and obligation of
working and providing for the family,
many Traditionalists self-defined as doers
with the resultant by-product of having.
“Who am I?” was not a question that received much attention. Even now in their
retirement years they believe it’s virtuous
to claim “I am as busy as I ever was.”
We had the birthright of a good education linked with the promise of lucrative
work and an early retirement, but many
of us are now dealing with the negative
consequences of work defining being. We
are disappointed in the luxurious retirement we were guaranteed. We have a late
desire to find out who we are.
This group looks at those two others and
does not define themselves based solely
on work and remuneration. A work-life
balance is crafted now so the first 65 years
are not overly focused on doing.
They see no link between education
guaranteeing highly compensated work
and a large infusion of wealth at the end
of it all. They appear to be less committed
to the lifelong pursuit of one job, but
strongly advocate that identity is not
forged on doing or having.
According to Scripture
Scripture’s major thrust is to talk about
who God is and who we are in light of who
God is. That is the fundamental message
of both testaments. God’s being – I am
who I am – (Exodus 3: 14) is primary. My
being, whether pre- or post-salvation, is a
natural extension of that. I can’t understand who I am unless I understand who
Layered on top of God’s identity and my
identity is what I need to do – how I need
to behave in light of those realities.
When I find out who God is and who I
am, I am invited into an ethical life where
I make choices and chart directions based
on the imperatives of Scripture.
Take a walk through Romans with these
things in mind. Romans chapters 1– 11 tell
us the realities of being, who God is and
who we are around themes of mercy, salvation, sin, justification, Israel and Jesus.
The imperative realities of doing are found
in chapters 12–16, all of which are based
on the being arguments of the first part of
These chapters are not moralistic – manipulatively compelling us to live a certain
way – but moral in the deepest sense. Because our being is forged into God’s being.
This is our inner motivation. We want to be
like Him, serve Him and worship Him.
Look at Ephesians 1:1–4: 16 compared to
4:17–6: 24, and you will see a similar thing,
or Colossians 1– 2 as opposed to 3–4.
Who God is and who I am always precede and provide a substantive base for
what I do.
Understanding the biblical record in
this way means I do not find out about
money and possessions in the Bible by a
Google search on the two words.
All my money questions need to be
framed within the grid of:
• Who is God?
• What does that mean for who I am?
• What is the result in what I do and what
“I was part of that strange race of people aptly
described as spending their lives doing things
they detest, to make money they don’t want,
to buy things they don’t need, to impress
people they don’t like.” – EMILE GAUVREAU (1891–1956)
Q/Do you think these words accurately describe the typical Canadian in 2016?