What determinants shape people’s lives? Almost everyone will have his own list. But it’ll be beneficial to focus on the following: 1) destiny, 2) intellect, 3) physical characteristics, 4) ethnicity, and 5) economics. These factors aren’t listed in any order of importance. It may well be that the business-minded might put “economics” as being of prime importance to the other categories.
Destiny – If you believe in destiny this may be how you’ll view experiences in life. For some people this feature is difficult to put a finger on. There are those who think that with almost all things there’s free choice. Some feel that they are always making choices, but they may not necessarily be doing so. Thomas Merton (1915–1968), a Catholic writer and mystic wrote, “Love is our destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another.” Merton in No Man Is an Island discusses this aspect of our lives, and provides insights about mankind’s nature.
Intellect – Undoubtedly some people are truly endowed with intellectual gifts and are considered geniuses. Their ability to recall and interpret what they have read is phenomenal. But some people may display their talents in other ways. They may not be intellectually savvy, but are spiritually insightful. As Christians we have at least one gift. Maybe this special gift may go unrecognized, but it’s nevertheless God-given.
Physical Characteristics – This is how people are physically regarded by others. Some may appear to be like eye-candy. They are beautiful, charming, and charismatic. Others may be endowed with natural beauty, and their admirers make praiseworthy comments about them. These persons are blessed with striking personalities, and when they walk into a room they are able to turn heads. Joel Osteen (b. 1963), a televangelist and author said, “I believe that God put gifts and talents and ability on the inside of everyone of us. When you develop that and you believe in yourself and you believe you’re a person of influence and a person of purpose, I believe you can rise up out of any situation.” To Osteen, it’s more than the physical characteristics which matter. He saw that with whatever qualities individuals have, the Creator can shape them into being people of influence.
Ethnicity – In some societies people’s ethnicity might be a cultural death sentence. Prior to the 1960s it was this way in South Africa, Rhodesia, and to some extent the United States. In many countries of the world skin color still determines privilege. Even today in America this image persists in various forms, although this nation did elect a bi-racial president in Barack Obama. People from every ethnic group are gifted in their own way, and are children of God. Dis-proportionally in America, blacks because of a past history of slavery have been dogged with poverty, lack of education, poor housing and low living conditions as compared to whites. Paul Ryan (b. 1970), a Republican U.S. representative of Wisconsin said, “Every successful individual knows that his or her achievement depends on a community of persons working together.” This remark goes to show that we ought to stop thinking about ethnic characteristics in order to move forward as communities.
Economics – Interesting enough what people do in life may determine how much money they have. But this isn’t always the case. Some individuals are born into rich or middle-class families, while others are poor from birth. Some may be so poor that they are unable to see their way out of poverty. Even with help there are those individuals – some of them hungry and homeless, who are still unable to make ends meet. Like some of the indigent giving aid, training, and handouts won’t turn their lives around. Yet there are those in society that continue to believe that all people can pull themselves up by their boot straps. Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790), a founding father of the United States wrote, “Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in his nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has the more one wants.” It’s obvious that money by itself is worthless, but what matters is how it’s used. Charitable givers demonstrate that money used wisely can make a difference to those in need.