January 18, 2014

True riches

This morning, both desktop and laptop required maintenance. The frustration of waiting for that little Windows wheel to stop spinning reminded me of friends who bought a boat. At the time, they were living minutes from the ocean and were excitedly looking forward to hours of pleasure. However, in a few months they sold the boat. They discovered that ocean sailing meant hours of maintenance, particularly to wash off all traces of corroding salt water. They said that the time it took to care for it erased all the pleasure of owning the boat.

This is somewhat related to the principle that every privilege comes with responsibility, but I am thinking of another principle; the things I value need to be considered in light of their lasting worth rather than their temporary pleasure. In the case of the boat, the discipline of caring for it could have been far more valuable in the long run than the fun had on the water.

The same is true for my computers. I use them for many things, but when they require maintenance, my need for patience is obvious. Do I value that virtue? Yes, I do. I also know that it develops only through frustrating experiences! If I treasure only what a computer can do for me, I’d go out and buy a new one every time I became frustrated with the old – and that would do nothing to develop patience in my heart.

Jesus speaks of what people consider valuable. Today’s devotional reading ties His words to worldly possessions, things that sometimes become idols . . .

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19–20)

When I die and go to heaven, my computers, car, house, clothes, everything will eventually rust or rot away, or someone could steal them today. Making them treasures only works as long as they work, or fit, or give me what I want from them. I need to look beyond those temporary benefits to find true treasure.

Besides, materialism is dangerous to my spiritual health. In the parable of the sower, Jesus describes hearts that hear the Word of God yet it does not take root and grow in their lives. He says, “Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.” (Matthew 13:7)
When the disciples asked Him to explain the parable, Jesus said of those seeds and thorns . . .

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. (Matthew 13:22)

Having a love for my stuff can distract me from the Word of God, but worse, it can also make it go in one ear and out the other instead of changing my life. If anything, boats, computers, television, tablets, books, or any other toys produce “cares” and the “deceitfulness of riches” in my heart, then my relationship with God will suffer and so will my spiritual growth and fruitfulness.

I am so thankful for the grace of God and the Holy Spirit. He has shown me that stuff isn’t anything compared to knowing Him and daily walking in His light. Because of Christ, I can turn from the idolatry of materialism, realizing the importance of lasting treasures . . .

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age . . .  (Titus 2:11–12)

Certainly some of that stuff is needful, but my heart’s attitude toward it is far more important.

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