“You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give.” This quote is typically attributed to Winston Churchill, but sources say it became popular in a 2005 Lockheed Martin TV commercial.
As Abraham Lincoln said, you can’t trust everything you read on the internet.
Churchill makes more sense, since we typically attribute meaning and purpose to individuals, virtuous individuals.
But President Woodrow Wilson applied this to all of human activity, including business, when he said, “We are not here merely to make a living. We are here to enrich the world.”
The people and companies whose mission is bigger than themselves last forever.
In both quotes, there are two categories that emerge. Let’s call them survival and flourishing.
“You make a living by what you get…”
“We are not here merely to make a living...”
It is fundamental that we all have a need to survive; we need to eat to survive, we need to drink to survive; we need protection from the elements. But it is a paradox that if we make this our primary goal, our souls will die, even if we have protected ourselves from all possible dangers.
It’s more complicated being human than just surviving.
But this is America’s problem. President Wilson knew it. We are too materialistic so that our definition of “success” is to amass tons of survival gear—tons of money, food, houses, things, stuff. We idolize and exalt the wealthy, even if he walks out on his family, because, well, that’s just the cost of doing business.
This is life without its natural purpose.
“…You make a life by what you give.”
“We are here to enrich the world.”
Is it more important to eat or to buy flowers?
This is the question that Makoto Fujimura asks in his book Culture Care. Mako is a 21st century artist and Director of the Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts at Fuller Theological Seminary.
Early on in their marriage and his career, one day he came home from his studies to find that his wife had spent their remaining few dollars on flowers instead of food. He blows up, obviously, but they had canned food in the pantry.
Later on, he reflects on that day as the turning point where he, the artist, learned how to value art.
The thesis of the book is: “Our concern as individuals and families should thus be to raise, educate, and form whole persons—to cultivate connected citizens who can co-create thriving communities, cities, and nations.”
Stuff Isn’t Enough
We need to agree that survival is not enough.
That in order to truly survive, we have to flourish, otherwise our souls will die, even in the midst of success.
People and companies like Churchill, Lockheed Martin, and Woodrow Wilson will last forever, not because they stockpiled survival gear to last forever, but because they committed themselves to the enrichment of life.
Sure, we all need to eat, but what’s food without flowers?
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