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Opportunities to do well with our lives will amount to nothing if we are dishonest, arrogant, prone to gossip, or led by people who are foolish.

You can become rich. I don’t mean “rich” in the sense of having a lot of money, cars, and “good times.” I mean rich in a fuller sense, in the sense of having the different parts of life go well.

A cousin of mine, a baker, once told me about a missed opportunity.

“If only I had started my own bakery some years ago,” he said. “I would be a rich man today.”

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My response might not have been as sympathetic as he would have liked. I tried to point out to him that he was rich in the broader sense. He had many family members living nearby. His dog was devoted to him. His motorbike gave him lots of pleasure. He was in good health, and he could look forward to many prosperous years.

In the Jewish and Christian Bible there is the word, “shalom.” It is often translated into English as “peace.” We often think of “peace” as the absence of violence. But in the Jewish-Christian understanding it means more; it means having a rich life in the broad sense. It means that we have family and friends who respect us. It means having enough food, clothing, and shelter. It means that we have opportunities to improve our education, have decent job prospects, and have access to good people to date. It means being well emotionally and mentally. And it means that we relate to God openly and routinely.

There are many people who offer riches in the narrow sense of money and possessions. I have an investor-entrepreneur friend who works in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and understands how to use cryptocurrency to finance his ventures. I see an online ad that the shows the picture of a certain “Mark K.” from Fort Worth, Texas. He apparently made $12,923 from investing a presumably much smaller amount in Bitcoin.

Some people invest in land. Others let a bank or private wealth management company do the investing for them. Some buy franchises. Universities and community colleges claim that our chances of earning a high salary will be substantially improved if we graduate from one of their programs.

I am not saying that these assurances or projects are worthless. But if we are going to succeed financially, or in any other way, we must first of all pay attention to the kind of person we are, to our character. No matter what we attempt to achieve in life we need sound character, a backbone of integrity and strength.

Near the middle of the Bible is a “book” called Proverbs. The book has a long introduction, but soon enough we find collections of sayings, easy to remember bits of wisdom. These were written and collected in ancient times in the Middle East, especially for young people trying to start up their lives. We can get the drift of Proverbs just by looking at a random selection of the sayings. As I am writing I am letting the book fall open to chapter 11.

The first verse teaches that God loves honesty and hates cheating. The second proverb advises the reader, do not become arrogant, but be humble.

Verse 12 warns against gossip.

“A true friend [won’t gossip about you but] will keep confidence.” And how about this one? “A community without wise leaders comes to ruin. A community with wise leaders will be kept safe.”

Opportunities to do well with our lives will amount to nothing if we are dishonest, arrogant, prone to gossip, or led by people who are foolish.

On the other hand, we do well to acquire a backbone of honesty, of humility, of care with the way we talk about others, and of connectedness with a wisely led community. Our careers will more likely flourish. People will open doors for us to better jobs. Our minds, bodies, families and communities will become more resilient. And yes, we will likely become materially better off.

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.